Andrea del Sarto's "Hanged Man" sketches


Recently Huck commented on Andrea of the Hanged Men.

Huck said:
The remarkable thing is, that he had a nick-name: Andreino degli Impiccati ("Little Andrea of the Hanged Men") and these hanged men war hanged by their heels. Very different explanations are given as reason, why he had this nick-name.

Let's try another explanation: Perhaps Andrea Castagno had something to do with the invention of the figure in Hanging Man in the Tarot game?

... :) ... I leave it to you to discover the different versions of life of this man.
Whether Huck has found "very different explanations", there is only one that is widely known and accepted, and it has never been a mystery. Andrea Castagno was famous for some striking pittura infamante he had executed. Such "shame paintings" have been the most commonly mentioned cognate for Tarot's Traitor card since Gertrude Moakley wrote about them in 1966.

Although shame paintings seem a menial task for great artists, a number of them are known to have depicted hangings of one form or another. Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli are among the notables who took such commissions. The best surviving examples of a notable artist having depicted the hanging by one foot are the sketches by Andrea del Sarto, shown below. The work for which these sketches were made was sufficiently known that it was recorded by Vasari in his Lives of Artists, along with a similar series of paintings by Andrea del Castagno.

Andrea del Castagno:
He lived in honour; but spending much, particularly on his dress and in his manner of living, he left little wealth behind him. When Guiliano de' Medici was slain, and his brother Lorenzo wounded, by the Pazzi and their adherents, the Signory resolved that the conspirators should be painted as traitors on the facade of the palace of the Podesta. And the work being offered to Andrea, he accepted it willingly, being much beholden to the house of Medici. He painted it surprisingly well, and it would be impossible to describe how much art he displayed in the portraits, painted for the most part from the themselves, representing them hanging by feet in all sorts of strange attitudes. The pleased the people so much that from that time he was called no more Andrea dal Castagno, but Andrea degli Impiccati, Andrea of the hanged men.
Andrea del Sarto:
During the siege of Florence some of the captains of the city escaped, carrying with them the pay of their soldiers; therefore Andrea was charged to paint them in the Piazza del Podesta, together with some other citizens who had escaped and become rebels. That he might not be nicknamed Andrea of the Hanged Men, as Andrea dal Castagno had been, he gave it out that one of his pupils, Bernardo del Buda, was doing it; but, having enclosed the place with a hoarding, he used to go in and out by night, and carried out the work with his own hand so well that the figures appeared alive. The paintings on the facade of the old Mercatanzia were many years afterwards covered with whitewash that they might not be seen.
Here are the surviving Hanged Man sketches of Andrea del Sarto, scanned from Samuel Edgerton's Pictures and Punishment, (1985). Because I don't think they're readily available online, I made the JPEGs large enough so that some detail can be appreciated.






Best regards,


German parallels to Italian shame paintings

Just as hanging by the feet was an actual method of execution in Italy, so too it was used to kill people in Germany. In Germany, the practice was most famously associated with the execution of Jews, as in Italy it was most famously associated with traitors, but in both cases it was not exclusive to those categories. Likewise, the Italian use of shame paintings with the subject hung by their feet, execution in effigy, had a very close parallel in Germany. It was used in Scheltbrief and Schandbild, letters of insult and defamatory pictures. In both Italian and German practice, such hanging in effigy appears to have been a common practice for financial crimes, including fraud and theft. An undercurrent of possible association running through all these is a connection with Judas, THE traitor of the Bible, THE hanged man of the Bible, the archetypal Jew who valued money over salvation, etc.

The following two images have been referenced and reproduced in Tarot discussions before, most notably on TarotL when Leon Efron and I were talking about Moakley and the "Jewish Execution" back in 2002. These images were taken from Robert Mills' Suspended Animation: Pain, Pleasure and Punishment in Medieval Culture, (2005). It has a good discussion of inverted hanging, shame paintings, etc., in the larger historical context.


Image from Scheltbrief (letter of defamation),
Johann of Lowenstein against Ludwig of Hesse, 2 November 1438,
German. Institut fur Stadtgeschichte, Frankfurt am Main.

(Page 45)​


Schandbild (defaming picture), Saydro and Isaac Straubinger
against Hans Judmann, 1490, German. A 17th-century copy
in the Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Munich.

(Page 47)​

A good source for some images of the Jewish Execution is Heinz Schreckenberg's The Jews in Christian Art, (1996). It includes a cycle of images illustrating Thomas Murner's anti-Jewish poem, Entehrung Maria, (1515). The final two panels show an offending Jew dragged on a board, then hung head down over a fire, with dogs to torment him further. Being dragged by a horse to the place of execution corresponds to the description Timothy Betts quoted from a 1393 Lombardy edict, (Tarot and the Millennium, 278), providing another link between the German and Italian practices. The model for these woodcuts was provided by a cycle of pictures commissioned in 1477 by the Emperor Maximilian I, and the crime being punished was desecrating an image of the Virgin, in Cambron, Belgium... so it's a far-flung tale.

Best regards,

le pendu


These are WONDERFUL resources. Thank you very much for sharing them!

I'm trying to remember which Pendu had the "torn sleeves", is it Visconti? Will have to look; but am struck by some similarities to the images you've posted.


I enjoy these so much- thank you.
There are also famous cases like When the Duke of Athens (Walter of Brienne) hung a merchant for criticising him in Florence and paraded him through the streets with his tongue cut out. He was suspended by one foot as well, on the usual carriage that lead the parade on San Giovanni Feast between the red and white banner poles that flew the Florence standard. The one foot hanging had a specific torture aspect as the victim would have no purchase and would flail around and break the pelvis. Cruel sods were they not! ~Rosanne

le pendu

It always reminds me of animals strung up in a market.


le pendu said:
It always reminds me of animals strung up in a market.
Well, speaking of animals strung up, they did that, too. But I think it's better addressed in a separate thread.



Thanks Michael - fantastic additional resources.

The earlier thread The Hanged Man... death of a Jew in Christian lands? could perhaps here also be mentioned.

The breadth of reversed hangings appears to be far more common and widespread across both space and time than we may previously have generally considered: from the UK to Turkey, from Roman times until the 18th century!

Great to see this thread!


jmd said:
Thanks Michael - fantastic additional resources.

The earlier thread The Hanged Man... death of a Jew in Christian lands? could perhaps here also be mentioned.

The breadth of reversed hangings appears to be far more common and widespread across both space and time than we may previously have generally considered: from the UK to Turkey, from Roman times until the 18th century!

Great to see this thread!

Agreed nice thread.



Marvellous drawings!! (And that one Hanged Man has a nice bum, too.)


Hi, Jean-Michel,

jmd said:
The breadth of reversed hangings appears to be far more common and widespread across both space and time than we may previously have generally considered...
One of the reasons for assembling collections of cognate images, particularly for some of the supposedly "mysterious" "symbolical" figures like the Popess and the Traitor, is to point out that historically they were not so mysterious or unconventional. Tarot enthusiasts crave tenuous and far-fetched analogies for the Traitor like Odin, St. Peter, the Armenian patron saint Gregory or other tortured martyrs who were hung upside down, mandrake root, alchemical imaginings, numerological suppositions, and so on. These are fun excursions, and when someone finds similar images it is always a bit exciting.


But as Moakley pointed out a half-century ago, there were conventional meanings in the milieu where Tarot was invented, and they are congruent with the more specific name of the card, the "Traitor". There is no need, again assuming that our interest is the historical meaning of the Tarot trump cycle, for all the fevered brainstorming and Google fishing expeditions. Regarding the image itself, (i.e., taken out of the Tarot context), all we need to know we were told by Moakley, Dummett, Betts, and perhaps most revealingly, Vitali. The two collections of images I've posted re hanging in effigy and the "Jewish Execution" are little more than illustrations of what Moakley talked about, rather than suggesting further "breadth of reversed hangings... across both space and time". As I routinely point out, we should pay attention to those who have already blazed the trail we're walking.

Apart from trivial historical details like my identification of the Jewish Execution model for the Geoffroy Hanged Man, the significant remaining question is how does this figure fit meaningfully into the trump cycle context. This requires a theory of the meaning of the cycle, and an explanation of why a Traitor makes sense coming after Time and Fortune and before Death. This is not difficult to do, and the conventional symbolism that it entails is confirmed by Vitali's report on Sigismondo Fanti's use of the figure. In his fortune-telling book, Fanti used the figure and provided an explanation of what it symbolized, which was, not surprisingly, directly related to its obvious subject matter.


If you are inhuman, or traitor to Lords or relatives
(in fact or in word), if you are without any respect,
without reason, I see you end your days in the air.

Fanti specifically uses the image to warn all powerful men to beware of traitorous people. (Fanti essorta tutti i potentati a doversi da questi tali per ogni modo guardare.) This, coming after Time and Fortune and immediately before Death, makes perfect sense of the Fall of Princes sequence that is the heart of Tarot's moral allegory. The question then becomes, why was betrayal used as the archetypal downfall for the De Casibus cycle... but we're getting into another thread here.

Best regards,