Bologna Tarot Questions


Hopefully I didn't bore you all too terribly with my questions on Marseilles and Sforza Tarot last time. ^^

I'm writing an essay which is basically about the history of Tarot, with a view to their changes over time. I'm doing a lot of research myself, obviously, so this isn't a question of me trying to get someone else to write my essay for me, but I getting a little lost with some aspects.

Does anyone have any info/resources about the Bologna tarot? Would you consider a separate style of Tarot, like Marseilles? Or is it just to do with where the cards are produced?
I should be a little sharper in piecing everything together, but I'm struggling to pull the threads together today.

If you can point me in the direction of Bolognese "style" decks would be appreciated. There's the Tarot de Bologna (which looks kinda like a Marseilles, this one? The Charles VI deck is also considered a bologna, yes?)

Ross G Caldwell

The wikipedia on Tarocco Bolognese (also called Tarocchino, "little tarocchi", because the pips were reduced in number) is also well-referenced and accurate.

John McLeod's site Pagat is authoritative in English for the rules of Ottocento (and also contains some historical information), the classic version of the game -

The decks produced in Bologna that look like the Tarot de Marseille style were made for export. The native game is that shown in the article and elsewhere, easy to find.

Cardmakers Dal Negro and Modiano currently make the Bolognese style of cards.

The so-called Charles VI deck is now considered to have been made in Florence (the growing consensus since 2007, so you should keep this in mind when reading older sources or contemporary ones that don't know about it). Of course, Florentine and Bolognese tarocchi are closely related.

It is my position, I don't know if it is shared by anyone, that Bologna preserves the original game invented in Florence. That is, the order of the trumps, exactly, and we can have a good idea of the iconography of the trumps, and the rules of the game by reconstruction from the oldest account of Partita.


British Museum: decks of Bologna

WWPCM (Minchiate)


Mitelli productions
search for "huck mitelli games collection"


likely the oldest extant cards from Bologna

Old stories:

A "Prince Fibbia" (died 1419) is declared as inventor of the Tarocchino Bologna ... on a late picture.


This was considered as not reliable for various reasons.

A "Marchione Burdochio da Bologna, merzaro", a merchant of Bologna sells relative cheap Trionfi decks to the servant of 2 sons of Niccolo d'Este, till 1441 Signore of Ferrara. This was a long time the 2nd oldest Trionfi card note (now 3rd oldest Trionfi card note), and a reason to reflect a possible origin of the Trionfi cards in Bologna. Nowadays most researchers estimate, that the origin of the earliest Trionfi cards happened in Florence.

Confirming documents from an early Bolognese Trionfi card production are rare. A theft in Bologna 1459 and a card production contract from 1477 are the oldest known documents. The card production contract gives the information, that the intended production of Trionfi cards took 5/4 of the costs of a normal deck leading to the assumption, that Trionfi cards contained 5/4 cards of that for a normal deck. If the normal deck had 56 cards as in the later Tarot and also in earlier Trionfi decks, then the number of trump cards should have been 14 and the number of cards for a complete Trionfi deck 5x14=70.
(research Franco Pratesi)

Bologna lived a long time under the rule of the Bentivoglio, a noble family as the d'Este in Ferrara. In 1506 Pope Julius attacked Bologna and conquered it. The Liga of Cambrai (1508) saw an alliance of various European powers against Venice, between Pope Julius and France. Pope Julius changed sides and took the side of Venice against France. a French army liberated Bologna for a short time. In this period Julius became seriously ill and it was considered, that he would die soon. Emperor Maximilian followed the idea, that he might become Pope himself for a short time. But Julius recovered and the French armies were driven out of Italy (August 1512). Bologna became united with the Chiesa (state of the church) a long time, and - likely cause of this condition - Bologna became rather traditional with its Trionfi motifs.

I tell the story cause of a specific card in the oldest Bolognese Tarocchi:


One can recognize 3 persons, from which one is associated to an emperor symbol (the apple with cross), and another something, which looks like a papal crown. A third person looks, as if it carries a Phrygian cap, something, which was used once to design 3 holy mages. The card is associated to the STAR and this might be associated to the star of Bethlehem (and the story of the 3 mages). Bologna has in one of its biggest churches (San Petronio) a chapel for the 3 mages since c. 1410 and it is plausible one of the earliest clear signs, that the more Northern 3 mages cult expanded to Italy. From other researches it seems plausible, that the 3 mages cult had some influence on the development on the Trionfi cards.

From the chosen motif it looks, as if these oldest extant Bolognese cards were produced 1511-12 in the short period, when Bologna enjoyed some freedom.

The Chariot card has something, which looks like a French Lille, perhaps thanks to the victorious French army.


The earlier d'Este card of the star had two astronomers (not 3 persons like the early star card of Bologna) ...

... and in the later Bolognese Tarocco tradition (under control of the Chiesa) a pope seems to crown the emperor ...


... which indeed happened for the last time in the year 1530, just in Bologna (Charles V was crowned then).
The Lille design at the chariot also disappeared.

So there seem to be reasons to date this oldest deck fragment from Bologna to 1511-12.


Ross wrote,
It is my position, I don't know if it is shared by anyone, that Bologna preserves the original game invented in Florence. That is, the order of the trumps, exactly, and we can have a good idea of the iconography of the trumps, and the rules of the game by reconstruction from the oldest account of Partita.
Where can I read about this oldest account of Partita?


Bologna produced itself Minchiate decks, rather similar to the Florentine motifs.
... a Minchiate deck produced in Bologna.


Deck found in the collection of the Museo Fournier de Naipes (Fournier Playing Cards Museum) in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain.
They were used in card games in Florence, Italy. In the 4 Coins it is written: CARTE FINE AL LEONE
(carte fine, quality cards), in 3 Cups: CARTE FINE IN BOLOGNA. In the strongest triumph,
The Trumpets, it is painted a view of the city of Bologna with the towers. In the triumph
XXVII there is a stamp, repeated twice, FUORI PER LE CASE (out for the houses).
In the backs it is written AL MONDO (At the World), it is another brand as Al Leone.
The strongest triumphs, XXXIII and following, have a red background.
See a very similar deck Minchiate by the factory Al Mondo of Bologna:

There are export lists of Minchiate produced in Toscana for the years 1729-1762 ...

... it was played outside of Tuscany. Most of the exports went to Rome and Siena, but some went as far as London (very few). But Minchiate (with other names) was also played in Sicily and Genova.

Thanks to Franco Pratesi a lot of the details of the 18th and 19th century Minchiate production is known very well ... since recently.


hi Iolon ...

You wrote at your page ...
"The Tarocchino is a variation on the Tarot deck. It was born in the 15th Century in Bologna, one of the main centers of playing card production in Italy."

... :) ... how would you prove it?

The words "Tarochi" and "Taraux" appear 1505 for the first time ... all, what we know. How shall the word "Tarocchino" have appeared before these?


Tarocchino, toots in the 15th Century

Dear Huck,
There are only hints that Tarocchino was born in the 15th Century. What do you think of the following two cards. These cards are not the only ones, there are very much similarities between the Rosenwald sheet and the Tarocchino deck. Please tell me how I can get them directly on this page to become more productive on this forum, I'm new here and I do not understand handling images yet.


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  • Antonio de Maria Ace of Coins reduced.jpg
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