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Ross G Caldwell  Ross G Caldwell is offline
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Join Date: 07 Jul 2003
Location: Béziers, France
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Ross G Caldwell 
René d'Anjou and cards


I have been puzzled by the lack of references to cards in René d'Anjou's life, which I have been studying. He was surrounded by card players, such as Jacques Coeur and of course his wife, Isabelle de Lorraine, who received Michelino's cards from Jacopo Antonio Marcello in 1449.

In my reading I have found out that René d'Anjou was very devoted to the Franciscan order, and in fact Bernardino of Siena was his confessor while René was in Naples, 1438-1442. René was actually one of the foremost proponents of Bernardino's canonisation, which occured in 1450.

This might explain why there is a curious lack of references to cards in René's life - he was a very serious and religious person, and Bernardino was of course famous for inciting "bonfires of the vanities", in which large numbers of cards and other games were burnt. Bernardino taught people to focus on the vanity of life's pleasures, and in fact René is known for his melancholy reflections on death. So it seems logical that René would stay away from the more frivolous aspects of courtly life.

Marcello sent the cards of Michelino to Isabelle, René's wife. It is possible that she never showed these cards to him, or that he regarded them with disdain, since their subject matter was entirely profane. Although René did have some Italian renaissance sensibilities, and was ahead of his time in other ways, he did not apparently share the Italian interest in the classical gods. In the inventories of his goods, the profane subjects are limited to kings like Alexander, the other "Neuf preux", tournament subjects, and a few "monsters" painted in the château of Tarascon.

Whatever happened to Michelino's cards, it seems likely that René would not have had any interest in them after Isabelle's death in 1453. Huck's suggestion that he may have returned them to Bianca Maria Visconti, whom he visited in Pavia in September 1453, seems therefore more plausible. Or, he could have ignored them, and they were lost another way. There is of course no direct evidence either way, but it is an interesting suggestion.
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