Origins of the Tarot de Marseille?


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Ross G Caldwell's Avatar
Ross G Caldwell  Ross G Caldwell is offline
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I don't know where this post should go, but considerations of the Belgian Tarot (TB) have raised it for me, so I put it here.

The peculiarities of any tradition should enable us to search for its temporal and geographical locus.

What I mean is that, for instance, the Hanged Man is so peculiarly Italian, iconographically and ideologically, that its existence in tarot pretty much screams "I'm Italian!".

But more particularly, the TdM is so different from the kinds of cards used in Italy in before the 18th century, that without the Cary Sheet it would be hard to think of it as anything but French.

So - for the geographical and historical locus of the tarot images, we can come up with precise analogues in other media to the Bateleur, to the Popess, Pope, Empress and Emperor, Lovers, the Chariot, the Virtues, the Wheel of Fortune, Time or the Hermit, the Pendu, Death, and Judgement.

But what about the TdM's Devil? I haven't seen anything exactly like him anywhere but in the TdM.

TdM's Star is fairly unique, although there are some analogues.

TdM's Moon is entirely sui generis.

TdM's (various) Sun cards are unique.

TdM's World is unique - although like the Star, there are antecedents.

So - can any exact parallels in any other iconographical sources be found, that match the TdM's Devil etc., that could put it in a more precise time and place?
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I've been reading a couple books on the Devil in Art and in the Middle Ages the past week because I was curious about the same thing you bring up.

Particulary, in regards to the Cary Sheet with the Devil with a basket on his back, as well as the TdM.

Funny you mention the Cary Sheet as indicating Italian. My gut is that the Cary Sheet is not Italian (mostly because of the Devil). I would however point to the the Sforza Castle World card... as a suggestion that the TdM comes from an Italian design, and that the numbers and titles were added by the French. I assume the Cary Sheet also suggests the addition of titles and numbers.

--

As for the books if anyone is interested:
Damned: An Illustrated History of the Devil
I bought it used on Amazon, and am glad I did not pay full price for it. Lots of great pictures but nothing "revolutionary".

The other is Lucifer: The Devil in the Middle Ages
I'm really enjoying this one. Will post if I find anything relevant.
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Medieval Housebook


Hello Ross.
Hello Robert.

I'm surprised that I haven't seen much more than a passing mention here of the "Wolfegg Medieval Housebook." (Middle Rhine, ca 1475-1490) I believe it offers a rare and important look at everyday life during the Middle Ages, and illustrates how the symbolism of the tarot permeated the everyday world at the time.

If you go through the illustrations, you can find many of the card images in the landscape and the fabric of society as it is pictured.

It's also interesting to note that the "Master of the Playing Cards" seems either to have had a hand in the creation, or to have had his work pretty heavily referenced.

In any case, it's a spectacular work. There are a couple of recent books about it that were done around the recent NY exhibition at the Frick, and a few older ones that may be harder to find.

Best,
OnePotato
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Wonderful thread (again).

I agree with much that has already been said - but let me add some considerations that also question certain points.

For example, I agree with Ross that the 'peculiarities of any tradition should enable us to search for its temporal and geographical locus'. Where I perhaps would question is the example that follows.

It COULD be assumed that the Hanged Man is peculiarly from the Italian peninsula ('Italy' not existing at the time - though I am of course aware that Ross is better informed than I am on its history).

It seems more a case that the hanging by the feet has been lost or forgotten outside of Italy. If one looks at, for example, the Strasbourg depiction of the hanging Jew (p 263 of H. Schreckenberg's The Jews in Christian Art, amongst others brought to our attention by kwaw), it may be that this was far more commonly 'known' in a far broader area. (See the thread The Hanged Man... death of a Jew in Christian lands?)

Also, there is the Ani (Turkey) depiction of St Gregory of Tigran Honentz brought to our attention by luh3417 (post 64 of Was the Hanged Man hung as a traitor?), it can be seen that this type of depiction, or more likely, reality, was more common than records may hint at.

Still, I agree with the substance of the posts above!

With XXI, though there is a transformation that appears towards a feminine form, that is not beyond easily explicable rendition over time, and out of context of, for example, Cathedral portal carving of Christ in Ascension.

The Devil does appear 'unique'.

I have at times wondered if it could not be an allegory for either Pope or Jew as seen through the eyes of protestants. This would certainly also account for the two 'aspirants' tied to his 'throne'.

Thanks also for mentioning that Wolfegg Medieval Housebook, OnePotato - I had no idea that it was relatively easily available - I had seen some reference to it some time back, but have never looked at it!
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Hi Ross- I have seen a TdM Devil like image in a French Hermetica from early Middle Ages. It was in Latin- so I understood it a little. It was a depiction of the plant mandragora or Mandrake. The plant was growing out of the hanged man's(criminal not Le Pendu) gentalia and the tongue like leaves were growing in and out of his gut as well. His gut was screaming from the mouth at his naval. It was a most startling sight for a Herbal book. I believe Mandrake was thought to be associated with magical powers and demonic behaviour.
As an aside, I never did get up the courage to write the essay on my belief that the origin of Tarot was French- but pleased to see you can maybe question that idea from images you see.
~Rosanne
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I read an interesting thread in another forum that brought up the idea that images of Lilith/Ishtar may have inspired the TdM Devil. I know they are not exactly like the TdM Devil, but the similarity is quite striking. (this may have been mentioned in a thread here somewhere)

Here is a link to the image of Ishtar, she is at the top of the page.
http://images.google.com/imgres?imgu...icial%26sa%3DN
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OnePotato
I'm surprised that I haven't seen much more than a passing mention here of the "Wolfegg Medieval Housebook."
Hi OnePotato,

Thanks for bringing this up!

I've started a new thread to discuss the Housebook. Of course, we can discuss it here too, but it is interesting enough to explore it in a thread of its own as well.

best,
robert
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le pendu 

Quote:
Originally Posted by prudence
I read an interesting thread in another forum that brought up the idea that images of Lilith/Ishtar may have inspired the TdM Devil. I know they are not exactly like the TdM Devil, but the similarity is quite striking. (this may have been mentioned in a thread here somewhere)
You're right, it is striking!

Something that I find extra interesting is the "cap/hat/headdress". I've wondered why the TdM devil seems to be wearing something, not even the TdB shows this.



Conver, Dodal, Benois

Edited to add:
It gets even more interesting when you consider that she seems rather likely to be Lilith, not Ishtar. Lilith being a "she-demon"..we're kind of back on track with "the devil"! Also the connecton with Judaism and Lilith.
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Yes, I totally agree - and recall when either Rosanne or Helvetica mentioned it in an earlier thread, it certainly added spice to the importance of the iconography.
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I think it was Helvetica jmd- but I have this one picture on my image files- so I may have posted it. Fascinating.
If you look up Mandrake in Medieval lore, you will find that sellers would carve pairs of mandrake men and woman and the would inset little seeds in various parts like the head and out would grow beards and horn like growths. These Mandrake pairs became your minions and in the dark would do many little tasks for you. You would tie these little figures to a dried mandrake. It is quite a TdM image. The fruit of the male plant was called Devil's Balls for obvious reasons and the female flower was called something totally unmentionable on here.~Rosanne
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