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MikeH  MikeH is offline
Join Date: 03 Nov 2007
Location: Oregon USA
Posts: 443
Michelino to Cary-Yale II


In my discussion of the Michelino, I went horizontally. This time I will go vertically. For best results in following this post, unless you are very famliar with the Michelino, it would be a good idea to draw a 4x4 grid large enough to fill much of a standard sheet of computer paper, and then write at the top of each square the name of the corresponding god in the Michelino, as listed at the top of my previous post. That way there will be room in each square to write below the god's name the name of one or two corresponding card titles in the Cary-Yale. Use a pencil with an eraser.


In Martiano's description, Jupiter "is seated on a starry throne, with regal emblems." These emblems are four, one in each corner: on the upper right, "right reason"; upper left, "the laws"; lower right "a burning star like Mars," to enforce the laws; and in the lower left "a thunderbolt," Jove's former means of chastisement.

Of the first four Michelino gods, three correspond to the group in Cary-Yale Swords. Jupiter and Juno are the Empress and Emperor of the gods, and Venus is the goddess of Love. (My images are scanned from US Games' version of the deck.)

In the Emperor card, all that has been reduced to four attendants, a wholly pleasant version of the four "stars" that surrounded Jupiter. Card-makers will have to find another place to put the thunderbolt! (So write "Emperor" below "Jupiter" on your grid.)

As for Juno, she is described as veiled like a bride, for she is goddess of marriage. Our Empress has no veil, it is true. That is rather hard to represent on a card. Martiano tells us she also has a crown of several levels, for her various realms. Well, there are no tiaras on the Empress. Juno has her bird, with the many-eyed tail, representing the many eyes the potentate needs to protect his riches. Juno also has a rainbow, a phenomenon that quickly appears and disappears, again like riches. Well, none of this is on the card. The card-maker instead decided to give the Empress four attendants, like the Emperor.

Venus's description fits the Love card well enough, remembering that the card has to be cleaned up for children. Furthermore, Juno's representative, the Empress, is close by: the lovers must be modest, without lust, and seeing only each other..

The only one of Martiano's chief gods that is missing from our first set is Pallas Athena, virgin goddess of wisdom. Well, you say, she is the Popess! And that's where Juno's multi-tiered tiara went, too. The Trionfi piece on the CY has this same result, the Popess. They get it from looking at chess as a way to organize the cards. After all, Filippo was an avid player. In chess, the piece next to the Queen, corresponding to our Empress, is a bishop, which becomes the Popess in the cards. The other bishop, next to the King, is then the Pope.

But I don't think Popess is right. We have to bear in mind that this new game, at this time, is primarily for children, adolescent girls, and their mothers. The card-designers may play chess, and may use such considerations, perhaps, in designing the cards, but the game has to make sense in other terms. The point is to provide a pleasurable instructional game, suitable for children and their parents to play, to impart the lessons of Renaissance Christian Humanist life (as Hurst shows for these decks in general in his web-article "Riddle of Tarot" ( I don't know where he has moved it).

From a child or young adolescent's perspective, the Popess is too complicated. I can imagine 15 year old Bianca thinking: "A Popess? There is no such thing, unless of course you count that crazy ancestor of ours who got herself burned at the stake. But I can't tell my friends about her, it's too embarrassing." Or perhaps: "Hey, it could happen; maybe I could do the same thing. But I wouldn't get pregnant. How stupid!" Whatever one's mother said (that it was the Church, or the Virgin, or whatever), these two associations--poor Sister Manfreda, elected Pope by her order of nuns, and the luckless if fictional Pope Joan--would be inevitable. Parents don't like being undermined: the Popess is out.

Instead, why don't we have her male equivalent, the virginal and most pure Pope, the male Athena of Christianity, fountain of God's own wisdom? (Pardon my irony, which would not have been lost on 15th century Milanese rulers. However we mustn’t stir up trouble from the Church unnecessarily. ) Moreover, he completes the sequence of the three others. These are Mama, Papa, and their Love: all that is missing is the Priest, to solemnize the union that will bring about its happy outcome, our young card player.

Actually, life was not quite like that, even for children. The insignia above the lovers are Visconti and Savoy, corresponding to Bianca's father and stepmother ( I do not know the rules of heraldry: If one’s father marries a Savoy, do he and his heirs have the right to Savoy devices, even heirs not biologically related to a Savoy? (Bianca's own begetting was without benefit of clergy.) I do not know. But there is nothing like de facto use of a device to make it a right. The scene is close enough, and it is the model that Bianca herself and her cohorts must follow, and all their heirs. All the more reason for an anxious parent to put in the Pope.

What about the other possibilities, at this end of later decks: Matto and Bagatto? After all, there is no reason to insist dogmatically on following Martiano. Having both might balance out the Emperor and the Empress. But we can only have one. We must remember that we are seeking an equivalent for the virgin goddess Athena. Fools and Magicians are not the best prospects.

So instead of the Michelino’s Jupiter, Juno, Athena, and Venus, we have Emperor, Empress, Pope, and Love.


Let us move on to the next set. Given Fortitude, Hope, and Faith, what is missing? I would guess one of the other virtues. Temperance usually gets in around here somewhere. If you're going to be Temperate, you'll need Fortitude! Just the thing for a young person to remember, by putting them together here.

As for Prudence, there is no record anywhere of that as the name of a card, except in the later 40 trump game called Minchiate. There Prudence is conforms to her standard Renaissance representation, holding a mirror. The same basic image is used in Faith and Charity, minus the snake and plus some splashes of red paint There is nothing in the image suggesting a unique and long history. The only Cary-Yale card with a mirror is Charity. And anyway, Prudence is in a different class of virtues.

We now have something very close to Petrarch's Chastity. It is Temperance, which is not exactly the same thing, but a more practical alternative, less threatening to the right of little card-players to be born (it just means self-control and moderation, not abstention or the confinement of sex to marriage. Bianca is not, under this virtue, her father's moral flaw.) And it is one of the three moral virtues of St. Aquinas.

Another possibility is that the three virtues together are the substitute for Petrarch's Chastity. Instead of Chastity, the triumph over Love is Virtue, in each of the three parts of the Platonic soul. It is that which keeps Love and Victory within proper bounds. Such a lesson Philippo would want to instill in his daughter, and Francesco and Bianca in their own children.

We do not have a close correspondence between the four cards as I see them and the corresponding gods Apollo, Neptune, Diana, and Bacchus. But perhaps there is a loose one: Apollo (the Light of the World) with Hope, Neptune (the Tempest) with Fortitude, Diana (the Virgin) with Faith, and Bacchus (the wine) with Temperance. But it is not important for everything to work out neatly.

I am being rather indifferent about the order within each set. I imagine that various orders were tried out, to see which told an allegorical story best. The Cary-Yale triumphs have no numbers themselves. The various later lists and numberings on cards show a wide variety when it comes to the virtues.


On to the next: Charity, Chariot, Death. What is missing? Well, several things. The Hunchback (later the Hermit), the Wheel of Fortune, and the Hanged Man. Not Justice--it goes near the end in all the early lists. The usual representation of Petrarch's triumph of Time is a man on crutches. But Duke Filippo walks on crutches and wouldn't like to be reminded of it, as Trionfi's "reconstruction" article helpfully tells us ( Skip the Hunchback.

The Hanged Man? Well, that was the execution they gave traitors in Renaissance Italy, a horrible death that took days (Michael J. Hurst at In Germany Jews got the same. I can't imagine mothers tolerating the stories their little boys would tell their younger sisters, about what would happen to them when they got the Hanged Man card. Another complication is Gertrude Moakley's story about how Father-in-law/Grandfather Muzio Sforza once had his name plastered on all the bridges of Rome with that image next to it, by no less than the Pope, or maybe an anti-Pope. This card too complicated.

Our final alternative, the Wheel of Fortune, is easy. You can even see the Hunchback in it--well at least an old man, without the despised crutches--ready for death. Plus, it is one of the two surviving triumphs of the Brera-Brambilla deck. If you look at its Emperor card, you will see that its design is halfway between that of the Cary-Yale and the Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo. Below, the Brera-Brambilla is on the left, CY in the middle, PMB on the right.

So the Wheel of Fortune is in one Visconti deck very close in time to the Cary-Yale. Likely it was in the Cary-Yale as well. (The image of the Brera-Brambilla is from

Petrarch's third, fourth, and fifth triumphs are all now in this third set, now that the Wheel has been added. Death is itself; Fame is the Chariot; and Time is the Wheel, which turns all to dust, even the memory of glory. All that remains is Eternity, the final triumph, which is the theme of the whole final set.

The Wheel as Time, in Petrarch's schema, goes after Death, and the Chariot as Worldly Fame. But that is probably too subtle for a child. It is easier to put it between the Chariot and Death, to symbolize the decline that follows triumph, sometimes sooner, sometimes later, until Death finally wins.

Let us go back to the third column of gods in Michelino: Mercury, Mars, Vesta, and Ceres. Again, we have to be loose in our associations. Martiano mentions Mars' war chariot at the beginning of his description of that god. But Mars is also an agent of death. One association seems clear-cut: The Wheel of Fortune was the turning of the seasons, i.e. Ceres. As for Charity, i.e. Grace, perhaps that is Vesta, just because of the feminine ending. I know no other connection.

As for Mercury, well, he went back and forth between our world and the ones above and below. He was known for guiding people one way or the other, usually upwards, such as Psyche, Eurydice, and Proserpine. So he could represent Death. On the other hand, Martiano mentions Mercury's eloquence as saving people from death. That is what he did with Psyche, Eurydice, and Persephone,. And although he did not have his own chariot, he guided that of others, for example that of Ariadne and Dionysus on an Orphic medallion. (This medallion is 200-300 b.c.e.; I do not know when it turned up in modern Italy; and perhaps a reference to the imagery survived somewhere.)

Mercury could be "right reason" guiding Plato's chariot of the soul (Phaedrus 246a-254e). The associations are loose but flexible.


Now let us move on to the last set, the triumphs of Coins.

Judgment (also called "the Angel") obviously has to do with the eternal. I would argue that the card often called “World” in the CY is also “Eternal fame.”

The World is God the Father, says the preacher of the “Steele Sermon” (, probably many years after the CY was designed. We can’t rely on that. The scene on the card looks to me like Parsifal's visit to the Fisher King, whom he finds sitting in a boat in the middle of a lake. The brightly colored castle would be the Grail Castle. This interpretation fits Duke Filippo's tastes, which reportedly ran from poetry in Italian to French romances (Rabil, "Humanism in Milan," in Renaissance Humanism Vol 1, p. 243). It also fits the artistic tastes of the artist. He, or someone with exactly the same style, did a series of illustrations for a “Lancelot of the Lake” manuscript of 1446 (Kaplan Vol. 2 pp. 123-128. That is a little later than the accepted date of the CY. I will have to return to this issue in another post. A full discussion would be too much here. For now let us postulate that he may have been working on the project already in 1441.

Will our Knight be found worthy of the Grail? Similarly, will our little card player be worthy of God? Will he or she earn fame in God’s eyes, no matter what the outcome on the physical plane? These are good questions for the card player to ponder. (Again, I know from Huck that there are references to Fame, even to a specific incident. I will deal with the issue in another post.)

As I have said earlier, the virtue of Justice, the result of the Judgment, must be added to the pair we have, Judgment (also known as Angel) and World. So now we have three out of four.

What else might there be, to bring the number of triumphs in the suit to 4? That is more difficult. The preacher of the “Steele Sermon” put the Fool at the end. He's the one who didn't live the Christian life and lives in poverty hereafter.

Yet the Fool is the one who doesn't need material things, the Fool for God (I Corinthians 1:17-31, 3:18-19). I think it was Gertrude Moakley who drew the comparison to Giotto's "Folly," and remarked that the Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo Fool is wearing the 7 feathers of the 7 weeks of Lent. His dress is also Lenten, and the feathers form a kind of halo over his head. Perhaps the CY had a similar Fool.

What are the equivalents for this set in the Michelino? Martiano has Hercules, Eolis, and Daphne, with the absurd Cupido at the end. I see a couple of options.

(1) Hercules is a good prototype for the questing knight-errant. Cupid is a kind of angel, carrying out the Divine Edict against Apollo with his gold and lead arrows ( Daphne is the recipient of Justice, for her chastity is secure. And Odysseus's men are fools, opening up the bag of winds just as they are within sight of home (

(2) We might want to switch Cupid and Eolis. Perhaps Cupid, i.e. the love-pangs that make fools of us all, is the Fool. Huck a while back suggested Cupid as the Fool at the 4th column, Aolus would then become the agent of Judgment, as the king who sends Odysseus on his way with a little bag to keep closed, and his men go to their destruction, after they have failed the test.

To summarize: I see the Cary-Yale as dividing into four groups. The order within groups is not determined, just the specific cards.

Column 1: Empress, Emperor, Pope, Love.
Column 2: Temperance, Fortitude, Hope, Faith.
Column 3: Charity, Chariot, Wheel, Death.
Column 4: Justice, World, Judgment, Fool.

Now there is room for more development. The Bagatto is a popular card in other cities, such as Ferrara. Our little card players want a place for him, in a suitably pious way. So the parents have an idea. We will have a wild card, a mere place-holder but also a valuable card because of his connection to Eternity. And what better candidate than the Fool?

To me this stepping out of the hierarchy is one way of explaining how the Fool got his unnumbered status. All the other special cards are in some order, still attached to suits. But as a wile card the Fool has no suit and no number.

Then there is room for the Bagatto there in the suit of Coins. What I imagine is that the great mythic intermediary between worlds, Mercury, the one with the broad-brimmed hat, is drafted. He didn't really fit the image of Death; he is better as a representative of Christ and Eternity. As a red-hatted priest or cardinal, he is the perfect person to administer last rites and prepare one for the Last Judgment. In the game, moreover, it is winning him in the last trick that can get one many points; to play him earlier is far less valuable (

Thus the Bagatto is connected to Eternity, as the agent of the Last Supper, repeated endlessly as the Eucharist. But then we get another idea. We will make him a low-life, just as Jesus was a penniless wonder-worker, conceived out of wedlock (like some of our players). It will also be a warning not to be taken in by tricksters who depart from God—all of Jesus’s miracles were from that source. And just as Jesus was the Word, by whom all things were made, so the Bagatto will be there at the beginning of our deck, now freed from the 4x4 grid.

Now we are transitioning to a new deck. With the grid gone, the Hunchback or Old Man, so popular in other cities, can be added, now that Filippo has passed away.. As our young players mature—and as friction with the Pope increases--they can also appreciate the Popess ancestor and the Hanged Man ancestor, their illustrious relatives, and see the importance of these two cards for their own children. (I will leave it vague for now whose idea it is to put in these cards, parents or older children, as I have some issues with the conventional dating of the decks, to be discussed later.) The old Hope, Faith, and Charity, never popular in other cities, can be put aside for the moment. A new set of special cards, 17 in all, is born.

Alternatively, the new deck, the "original PMB," could have been 20 at the start, the three Theological Virtues replaced by Star, Moon, and Sun cards much like the PMB cards we know, and then later redrawn by another artist, perhaps so that the deck's new owner, Galeazzo Sforza, could flatter his favorite woman (or maybe women, telling each one it was her).

That is the scenario I see developing out of the Michelino’s 4x4 grid. It probably was not exactly as I have described, as the details cannot be determined with precision. But I don’t see why it wasn’t something like that.
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