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Ross G Caldwell  Ross G Caldwell is offline
Join Date: 07 Jul 2003
Location: Béziers, France
Posts: 2,649
Ross G Caldwell 

Hi Huck,

I think you're ignoring a lot of stuff.

We know our knowledge is very fragmentary, and decks lose their cards. There is only one court card in the Charles VI set - every other suit card is gone. Why shouldn't six of the trumps be missing also? Why should we assume that what we have in the trumps of ANY 15th century deck is the complete series, when there is no complete series of any tarot deck in the 15th century, except for the Sola Busca (which might not be 15th century).

The reasonable assumption is that there are missing trumps.

With the ensemble of tarot trumps from all decks suspected to have been made between 1441 and 1455 (giving Charles VI a "circa" date), every trump but the Devil is accounted for. That's a quick time to have all those standard subjects. The Steele sermon lists the standard trumps, and this sermon, closely based on another sermon written before 1450, has to be early (despite the date of the presumed copy).

We know that the type of cards had a standard name, and that the game had a standard name. It is reasonable to think that the deck used to play this game had a standard also. We suspect it is being played in the Borromeo fresco, we know it was a retail commodity in 1442, we know it too cheap for a Queen in 1448, we know it was already recognized in law in 1450, we know it was a retail commodity in 1450 (Sforza expected his decks in days, i.e. already made), we know already a basic rule in 1456 (four players in two partnerships). We know it was a game with a name - by definition, there was a standard practice, and must have had standard tools to play it.

We know it was all over Italy within 30 years, between 1442 and 1473. It seems impossible that most of these items could be unique and with different numerations, although identical subjects when taken as a whole class. And this is what this is about, the class of the item with the name of the class - carte da trionfi.

Who could have the power to change everywhere the basic structure of a game that everybody knew already?

There is no mention of carte da trionfi among Lorenzo's possessions -
(although this is how we know of the birth tray with Fama on it) - or any kinds of playing cards, for that matter. But we know that princes and the wealthy had no reason to hide them, from the inventories of Valentina/Louis and Jacques Coeur (for instance). But the main point is, that you need to suppose that the cards were always rare and unique items, YET, they were always known by the same name. How is it that each time somebody wanted to make a set, they knew what to do? What subjects might be appropriate? What to call it? Was there a tradition invisible to us, that the designers of pageants and the artisans of gifts drew upon, when making each and every unique commission?

Yes there was of course, the STANDARD SERIES of triumph cards. The standard game of triumphs. And it is not invisible to us, but was there. And the cards that have come down to us have lost some subjects, they are not different games entirely, constructed each time according to different principles for a dogmatic or heraldic reason. The heraldry was adapted to the game, not the game to the heraldry.

There is every reason to think that the game took hold in northern Italy in the 1440s, and what we know is just the tip of the iceberg for what went on. What has survived is not the whole picture, and it is naïve to take it as such.

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