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MikeH  MikeH is offline
Join Date: 03 Nov 2007
Location: Oregon USA
Posts: 443
"Fame" and "World in the CY and PMB, Part I

Now I'm ready to talk about "Fame."

Huck, that was indeed a great collection of posts and links you provided on the "Fame" (or "World') card in the Cary-Yale. For the top of the card, you gave us a winged goddess blowing a trumpet (Wikipedia), a winged trumpet without goddess (link), and an unwinged lady holding a winged trumpet (card). For the lower half we were treated to the New Jerusalem, the "sic transit gloria mundi," Plato's Republic, the Duchy of Milan, a slapstick escape worthy of the Comedia del'Arte (or a cliffhanger melodrama worthy of Hollywood), and two or three weddings. It's taken me a while to digest it all. Well, here are my thoughts (or perhaps flatus).


The French version of the verse at the top of one of Huck’s links reads:

La main qui tient ceste trompe volante
Veut figurer la bonne renommee
Qui vole ainsi qu'vne trompe sonante,
D'où la personne est bien ou mal nommee.
Celle qui est sur toutes estimee,
Doit bien garder à orgueil donner lieu.
Car d'elle n'est ce qu'elle n'est blasmee.
Le bon renom n'est d'ailleurs que de Dieu.
(Georgette de Montenay/Anna Roemer Visscher, Cent emblemes chrestiens (c. 1615);

And my translation (after the translation machine produced gibberish):

"The hand that holds this winged trumpet
Wants to spread the good renown
That flies the way a trumpet sounds,
From where the person is well or badly named.
One who is esteemed above all
Indeed must be on guard against giving place to pride.
For it is from her that it is blasphemed.
Good renown is moreover only from God."

The moral, as I read the ending, is that it is okay to be rich and famous, as long as you credit God with your success. This is pure Calvinism (as in Tawney's Religion and the Rise of Capitalism). Yet the way in which Fame is contingent upon God seems to me reflected in the Cary-Yale card. First, the lady on the Cary-Yale is holding the trumpet at her side, not blowing it. The time of winning worldly fame passed by with the triumphal Chariot. The time of "sic transit gloria mundi" is past, as the Wheel of Fortune has turned. Eternity awaits. Is there fame there? Apparently there is, according to the trumpeter. It is the fame beyond fame, fame in heaven’s eyes, beyond all the fame of this world. And it is the fame that anyone, of whatever station in life, can hope to attain, of winning fame in Heaven for one's life on earth.

There is another trumpet close by in the cards, either just sounded or about to sound. The Angel has that trumpet, to sound the Last Judgment. It is not a winged trumpet, but in Greece the goddess, not the trumpet, was the one with the wings (Wikipedia). But the Angel is not Fame. So which trumpet is on our card? Less educated people would know about the trumpet of Judgment, since it is a Christian rather than Greek image. Perhaps there is something of both, depending on the eye of the beholder; but neither trumpet is in use at the moment. Both relate to the theme of Eternity. And for a prideful fool like Piccinnino, who goes "Seeking the bubble reputation/Even in the cannon's mouth" ([url][/url), perhaps the trumpet does indeed sound his 15 minutes of fame, if his betters assure him that it is so.


Cards have personal references for the family that produces them. But they also have generic references. The Hanged Man, for example, is not just Muzio Atendola, but anybody accused of being a traitor (and Jesus as well as Judas). The Popess is not just the Visconti heretical nun elected Pope and burned at the stake; the marriage is not just Francesco and Bianca or whoever, however useful such information may be for dating the cards and pleasing the people thus portrayed. We have to ask, what is the person appearing as, symbolically?

My first impression when I saw the Fame/World card was that it was a scene from an Arthurian romance. This impression was strengthened when I learned that Filippo Visconti's taste in literature ran to such romances. Moreover, during the period 1436-1442, the artist Pisanello did a fresco cycle in Mantua on that theme ( In the mid-1440’s these frescoes inspired a series of illuminations for a 1446 book called “Launcelot du Lac.” They are probably by Bonifacio Bembo; but whoever he was, the artist was probably the same one that did the CY (Kaplan Vol. 2). There are numerous similarities to cards in the CY, and some to cards in the original PMB. The face of Perceval's sister is like the CY Empress's; Arthur's is like the Emperor's, all have the same youthful glow as the figures in the CY, and so on. Kaplan has six pages of analysis and pictures. One example is the chess scene. The style is the same as the CY—youthful figures, similar hats--and the dog on the ground reminds us of the dog in the CY Love card.

Again, in another illustration, Perceval's sister (in the middle, first illustration below) gives her blood, which somehow saves the life of another lady. Kaplan compares her to the CY Empress, seen in the image I have posted just below the other. Perceval is the knight to the left with an angel above him; Galahad has a sun above him.In the bottom image is Arthur sailing to Avalan. Kaplan compares him to the Emperor, whose CY image I have posted next to the Empress.

Arthur's destination, the Isle of Avalon, was another place accessible only to a chosen few; I myself can at times see its turrets in the distance on the CY card. My guess is that the dead knight on the shore, with the sunburst above him, is Galahad, who died from contemplating the Grail.

This "Lancelot," from the lengthy description in Kaplan, sounds like it put together a lot of famous knights in one package. The text may or may not have included the scene on the Fame/World card. Most people would have identified the fisherman as the Fisher King, who is out there fishing and also greeting people deemed suitable to visit his castle, such as Perceval or Galahad. In the versions that I have read, the Fisher King is in a boat. So we have a boat. We might as well put what's his name in it, Piccinnino.

The card means, from this perspective, attaining the Holy Grail. It is an accomplishment that brings fame among the poets and knights, but more importantly admission to the spiritual heights. Perceval, in the continuations and in Wolfram's Parzival, enters the mythic realm. Galahad, in another version, dies from religious ecstasy. But first, apparently, he heals the Fisher King. Kaplan gives us an illustration, from a 14th century Italian manuscript (Vol. 2 p. 162). This King, Kaplan observes, looks much like the CY Emperor.

Finding the Grail is the culmination of all one's quests. Moreover, the Grail Castle is not of the uncertain future, like the New Jerusalem, but of Arthurian times. The Fisher King is also allegorically Christ (the fisher of men) but with a thigh-wound (i.e. still suffering with us, still giving us his blood, awaiting the time of the Second Coming).

In the Grail stories, the hero achieves the goal without dying first, or even decisively leaving the physical world. It would appear that the Last Judgment is not yet come, or it comes at the very end of the story, symbolized by the healing/death of the Fisher King. Perhaps the Angel was the last card in Milan of the early days, although we know that by the end of the 15th century the World was the last.

By the time of the second artist of the PMB, Arthurian romances are no longer fashionable. So the artist drops the Grail theme and just has two cherubs holding up a walled castle or small walled city. Coming after the Last Judgment by then, it is most naturally a vision of the New Jerusalem.

As though to clarify this point, the Sermones de Ludo cum Aliis calls the card "El Mondo," "The World" (or Universe), but adds "(cioe Dio Padre)", ((i.e. Father God)." Perhaps this comment was made a few years after the original PMB; but the card would not have substantially changed in meaning during the interim. And it might be aimed at some other version of the card, such as the d'Este, which is more obscure (above center). In D'Allemagne's 17th century rendition of the card (below left, Kaplan Vol. 1 p. 118), it looks similar to the Rosenwald card (below middle, Kaplan Vol. 1 p. 130). As a mass-produced deck, that is probably closer what the Sermones had in mind. In the center of the circle, there is a cloud shaped like an eye, suggesting the eye of the God who sees all.

In the centuries that follow, the same meaning gets carried into the "Marseille" style cards, where Christ (in Vieville, below right, color added by Tarotpedia), the anima mundi ("Chosson," Conver etc.), or someone in between (Noblet, Dodal), welcomes the successful candidate to Heaven.

In such decks as the Rosenwald or the d’Este, a large figure stands on top of a circle or globe containing an earthly landscape. In the Charles VI (2 groups of images above, right side), the globe floats above shapes that are either waves, clouds, or mountains. Looking at the similar Castello Ursino card (1st above, right, Kaplan Vol. 1, p. 109), I would guess them to be mountains. It is a setting suggesting that everything inside the globe is of the spirit. Inside the globe are more mountains; the top center scene has a tower, suggesting a church tower, with clouds around it, as though on a spiritual Mt. Olympus. It is about ascending above this mundane world.

In Bologna (above left, colors added by Tarotpedia), the circle or globe, according to Tarotpedia, contains symbols of the four elements. (I personally can't tell what they are.) That is a different image: here the globe is our current physical world. The figure above, it seems to me, is among other things a symbol of the quintessence transcending the four. With such symbolism, the card probably is meant to come earlier in the sequence than the Angel of Judgment. But it is also a welcoming figure, to those who are famous in heaven, as in the "Marseille" card that comes after Judgment..

The CY, the PMB as we have it, and most other such cards point to a spiritual goal at or near the end of the road to salvation either just before or after the Last Judgment. It is not Prudence, for it has none of that virtue's usual symbolism; nor does the word appear on any tarot or proto-tarot list, nor was it even considered a moral virtue. If it is Fame, it is only so in the context of Eternity. For a deck to leave out the card, as Huck proposes the original PMB did, would have been as manifestly incomplete and unsatisfying to the player as it would be unprecedented--all other known early decks, except some very fragmentary ones, have something like that card, whatever one chooses to call it. A 15 year old girl might leave out such a card, as Huck proposes, but not one with the maturity gained through at least ten years of crises, exposure to many different cities, and the input of a husband wizened by twice as much such experience as she. For the original PMB cannot be earlier than 1452, when Bembo’s workshop reopened. (Continued next post)
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