Bianca Maria Visconti, 1425-1468

Ross G Caldwell

Today In Tarot History

31 March

1425. Birthday of Bianca Maria Visconti. Bianca Maria was the daughter of Filippo Maria Visconti (the duke of Milan) and his mistress Agnese del Maino. She may have had a twin sister named Lucia or Caterina Maria who died shortly after birth. Bianca had a thorough education and was esteemed for her eloquence already in her youth.

Bianca married Francesco Sforza on October 25, 1441, in Cremona. They would have eight children. After her marriage, Bianca spent some time in Venice with her husband, travelled with him frequently, and then established herself in Cremona. After her father’s death in 1447, she could also stay in Pavia and the Visconti castle of Abbiategrasso. In 1450 she became Duchess of Milan, and was very active in all the affairs of state, as well as a patron of hospitals, churches and convents, and the arts.


Bembo workshop, 1464, the marriage of Francesco Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti

Bianca Maria is both directly and indirectly related to some of the earliest documentation of tarot cards. Her city, Cremona, was a center of production of the cards probably already in the 1440s, and definitely by the early 1450s.

Some people have suggested that the Visconti di Modrone or Cary Yale, possibly the oldest surviving tarot, was one of her father’s wedding gifts for her, or otherwise made for her; also, the Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo (“Visconti-Sforza”) was made during her lifetime. Both of these decks were painted by Bonfacio Bembo or the Bembo workshop in Cremona.

Bianca Maria died on October 23, 1468, after a prolonged unknown illness (1).


Bianca Maria in 1460, attributed to Bonifacio Bembo (Brera Gallery, Milan)

((1) According to the paleographer Caterina Santoro, of the Trivulziana library in Milan, this date should be 28 October. The vast majority of sources affirm 23 October, however)


thank you Ross.