Bologna Tarot Questions


The statement that there are only two decks with 22 trumps in the 15th century is a little bit crude. The statement should be "we have only one 15th century deck of which 22 trumps survived (Sola Busca) but we have a strong indication from the Boiardo poem that there existed decks with 22 trumps". Another indication is the Steel Sermon, possible also from the late fifteenth century.
The Charles VI deck has 16 surviving trumps. The Este deck has 8 surviving trumps of which two are different from the Charles VI deck. So we have 18 trumps surviving out of 22. Both decks might have been, although manufactured in different towns, ordered by the same person, Ercole I of Este. I strongly believe that both decks were the first examples of the 22 trump structure. The oldest one is probably the Charles VI deck, manufactured possibly between 1460 (when Ercole I returned to Ferrara from Naples) and 1465 (latest date proposed earlier in this discussion) in Florence.

The Sola-Busca probably had the date of 1491 (arguments given by Kaplan). The date of the Boiardo poem is globally given by various interpreters between 1461-1494, but there are good reasons to assume the date "around January 1487".
You should find one of my earlier argumentations for this point here ... 1487 huck
For the Steel manuscript exist this note of the owner of it:

It's a crucial point to have the first appearance of the deck structure 4x14+22 (as far it can be known with very high security). So I noted Sola Busca and the Boiardo poem.

There's no way by history methods to exclude the existence of this deck structure for the year 1400 or 1401 or 1402 etc. There is also no way to exclude the existence of the deck structures 4x14+23 or 4x14+24 or 4x14+25 etc. in the same years. If somebody prefers to believe, that Caesar played Tarocchi with Cleopatra, we cannot prove the contrary.

Everything is possible, the state of research likely will have always the condition, that we don't know all decks, that once were produced.

We can keep only to that, what we definitely know, and from that we can develop theories and arguments about the development of playing cards with some probability.


The poet Luigi Pulci is the first, who noted the word "Minchiate" in the context of games (1466 in a letter to the young Lorenzo di Medici). From here the suspicion is given, that Pulci might have something to do with the production of playing cards. Pulci was commissioned by Lucrezia Tornabuoni (mother of Lorenzo di Medici) to write the Morgante, a longer poetry work about the hero Orlando, who made friendship with a giant called "Morgante" (around 1460).
The Pulci family had a mill in the Mugello, in c. 5 km distance to a Medici villa ...
... where Lucrezia likely spend holidays time with her children. The later great friendship between Lorenzo and Luigi Pulci likely explains from the condition, that Pulci was used to guard the children in the forests around the villa. Lorenzo's young troop never lost their enjoyment about hunting later, also they developed literary skills, which likely were developed under the guidance of Pulci. One poem of them describes the scene, that Pulci searched for himself a stump of a tree to sit upon for constructing poetry, while the kids searched for adventures.
The Morgante (a giant, gives its name to the title), whatever literature experts later made out of it, is a poem for children, adventures, heroes and battles and fun. Morgante (somehow Pulci, grown up) is the friend of Orlando (somehow Lorenzo, a boy).
The poem made quick progress. Literature experts found out, that around 1463 about 15 chapters were ready. Then the life of the children became more serious, deaths in the family forced a quick adolescence. The development of the poem stopped and took a slow progress.
Around 1471 Pulci might have reached 23 chapters, one of the manuscript found its way to Ercole d'Este in Ferrara (in 1474, I remember). Short after this Boiardo (living at the court in Ferrara) started to work on his Orlando poem. Meanwhile Pulci got serious trouble in Florence, he was found then in the service of the Milanese condottiero Roberto Sanseverino. The relations to the poets in Florence were stressed. Around 1479 Pulci was reconciled with the Florentine society and the final Morgante had then 28 chapters. From Boiardo we know then an excessive development with his Orlando.

The Charles VI (assumed is the year 1463) has a Fool giant, who is involved in a stone throwing battle.


The friendship between Morgante and Orlande (Pulci poem) starts with a stone-throwing battle.
A second friendly giant of the poem, Margutte, isn't present in the first 15 chapters. He appears in chapter XVIII.

The Charles VI has only one giant, the Fool card, the Bagatello card is missing.

The Este cards have 2 giants, Fool + Bagatello. The Este knew the 23-chapter version of the Morgante.


The Rosenwald Tarocchi (suspected to have its origin possibly around 1463 in Florence, possibly as the first Minchiate) has a figure, which unites Fool (Fool's cap) and Magician (table). It's suspected, that no other fool or Magician was used (as in the 16-trumps-Charles VI), so that this deck (probably) had only 96 cards.


Two other Fools with similar outfit were detected by Michael J. Hurst in calendars of the years 1464/1465 (as "children of the moon")



... both with Fool's cap and Bagatello table. The coincidence in time (1464/65) might count as an indication, that the Rosenwald indeed might have its origin around 1463 or little later.


A later legend about the origin of the Medici palle:

Information about the Medici family prior to the mid thirteenth century is fairly scarce and is also dubious since it is not supported by documents or reliable sources. The studies devoted to this, one of the most famous historic families of all time, have rarely ventured to trace the effective origins and reconstruct events prior to the period of the great economic and political ascent of the Medici. Generally, the sources and the literary tradition record that the Medici originated from Mugello, the area to the north-east of Florence that now comprises the municipal territories of Barberino di Mugello, San Piero a Sieve, Scarperia, Borgo San Lorenzo and Vicchio. However this information has no certain documentary foundation and is based on the fact that, from the fourteenth century on, the Medici prove to be landowners in the area. It was in fact normal practice for the merchants of the thirteenth century, who nurtured their economic fortunes in the city, to purchase land in the rural area from which they originated.
On the other hand there are numerous legends about the Medici, which flourished above all in the Grand Ducal period (sixteenth-seventeenth century) when the imagination and the pens of the court literati were artfully employed in giving lustre to the origins of the reigning dynasty of Tuscany. According to a seventeenth-century manuscript now in the Biblioteca Moreniana, in the early Middle Ages the Medici were connected with the Ubaldini, who were powerful feudal lords in Mugello at the time, and from at least 1030 possessed the castles of Castagnolo and Petrone situated in the environs of modern-day Scarperia. The same source also records a story of fabulous accents, designed to ennoble the origins of the Medici stock and its coat of arms. This type of courtly romance presents as the founding father a certain Averardo de' Medici � a name that was later recurrent in the family between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries � who was a captain in the army of Charlemagne, emperor and also "founder" of Florence. The story goes that the valiant Averardo, while he was engaged in liberating the Tuscan territory from the invasion of the Longobards, defeated a giant called Mugello who terrorised the area of the same name in the upper valley of the Sieve. During the clash the giant Mugello drove his spiked mace (or possibly the balls of his flail) into Averardo's gilded shield. The impression left on the knight's armour then suggested the heraldic emblem of the balls or "bisanti" (round gold spangles) of the Medici escutcheon. Thus, after the mythical exploit of Averardo, the distant forbears of Cosimo il Vecchio and Lorenzo il Magnifico moved to the region of Mugello.
However, the fact that the Medici settled in Mugello at such an early date appears to be undermined by another, more reliable, piece of evidence. In fact, in the Libro di memorie written by Filigno de' Medici in 1374, the writer records that the first significant purchases of land in Mugello were made by the Medici between 1260 and 1318, while they had already owned property of a certain importance in Florence from at least 1169.
Utilising the scarce data available, it is in any case difficult to establish whether, at the dawn of their history, the Medici were extremely affluent landowners who sought new opportunities to grow and prosper in the city, or whether instead they were wealthy citizens who, to redeem their own humble extraction, made propitious alliances with noble families and investments in the countryside.

This later story seems to be inspired by Pulci's Morgante, "Mugello", "Charlemagne", "giant" (started to get more attention with Pulci in 1460), and with the choice of a more fixed Medici heraldry (1465).


Margutte, the second giant, is marked with a great interest in cooking and eating. The Bagatello card was later associated to the "innkeeper".

Actually "Innkeeper" and "Fool" were inspired by chess iconography and pawn professions:


... professions: Gambler, Messenger, stands in front of the rook at the Queen's side


... profession: innkeeper, stands in front of the bishop at the Queen's side


The Rosenwald Tarocchi (suspected to have its origin possibly around 1463 in Florence, possibly as the first Minchiate) has a figure, which unites Fool (Fool's cap) and Magician (table). It's suspected, that no other fool or Magician was used (as in the 16-trumps-Charles VI), so that this deck (probably) had only 96 cards.

The Rosenwald deck has some cards that are typical for the later Tarocchino decks. Look at the following cards representing the Magician and Ace of Coins of the Rosenwald sheet and the same cards from the 18th century Tarocchino deck made by Antonio de Maria (the original images are conserved in the British Museum). The Magician on the Tarocchino deck and the Rosenwald sheet have the same Fool's cap and the two Aces of Coins are almost identically. Sorry, the images are from my harddisk, I do not know how to display them. Definitely the Rosenwald deck was not an early Minchiate deck nor from Florence, it was very probable an early Bolognese card deck that had strong influences on the later Tarocchino decks. In my opinion the Charles VI deck had 22 trumps just like probably the Rosenwald deck. Because there are cards missing on a deck dating from several centuries ago, this can never be an evidence that the deck had less cards than usual (of more, or the same, in fact every option is possible).


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Sorry, the images are from my harddisk, I do not know how to display them.

.... :) ... I already told you how to display a picture a few posts ago.


An "img" in square brackets opens the image command, an "/img" in square brackets closes it.

so ...
img included in [] + picture-web-adress + /img included in []"
... gives a picture in this system

... :) if you don't understand this, you have to quote this post and see in the source code, how I realised the picture.

The "quote"-button appears at the end of each post at the right side bottom beside the button "edit".

If you have the picture only at your harddisk, the picture has no web address and cannot be shown. If you make an attachment picture, the picture gets a web address. Or you can upload the picture to your webspace, and then it also gets a web address.


This way of displaying images is far from user friendly. However, here are the images comparing the Rosenwald sheet with the Tarocchino deck of Angelo de Maria

As can be seen both Magician's have a Foold's cap. In fact this is a characteristic of the Tarocchino deck's all over the centuries. The Aces of the suit of Coins are also very similar

These common characteristics are a strong indication that despite of the different number of suit cards, the Rosenwald sheet was one of the ancestors of the Tarocchino decks and might have been manufactured in Bologna.


The cap is different with two ass ears.

The Charles VI has also 2 ass ears, though the cap is a variant:


The d'Este Fool repeats this cap of Charles VI:


Before the Rosenwald appears the two-ass-ears-Fool in the Hofämterspiel (c. 1455):


... and it is repeated very often in the bestselling "Ship of Fools" (1494)


... somehow a German Fool's cap.


Tarocchino means little "Tarocco" or "Tarocchi", likely indicating "reduced card number" (Tarocchino had only 62 cards instead of 78).
The word Tarocchi develops since 1505, not earlier (as far we know it).


The discussion here is not about the number of ears or bells on a Fool's cap. On the Charles VI and Este deck the Fool has two ass ears and one single bell on the the top of his cap. On other images you find two bells, one bell or two ass ears on this cap. The point I wanted to show is that the magician on both the Tarocchino deck and the Rosenwald sheet has a Fool's cap and that both cards represent only the Magician, this card is certainly not a combination of the Fool and the Magician. As a prove, on the Tarocchino deck there is a seperate card dedicated to the Fool. For the Rosenwald deck we do not know this card, but its existence cannot be excluded. Except for the Fool, also the Queen of Batons (Wands) and the four tens are missing. The missing tens are eventually understandable, there exist other card games with only 9 pip cards per suit (ancient Germand games as example where the Ace was missing), but the Queen of Batons is less comprehensible.
The question here is the following: Is the Rosenwall sheet a Tarocchi deck made in Bologna from which the Tarocchino deck was derived, or was the Rosenwald deck a ancestor of the Minchiate deck manufactured in Florence? The Rosenwald sheet shares some characteristics with both the Tarocchino decks and the Minchiate decks. In my opinion the Rosenwald deck is much closer to the Tarocchino deck than to the Minchiate decks, the images shown in my previous post are presented as an strong indication supporting this opinion.


The Rosenwald has curious knights (men mixed with animals), the Minchiate has the same curious knights.

The Tarocchino versions doesn't have the curious knights, but usual men on horses (as far I know them). Bolognese Minchiate versions might have the same curious knights.

Rosenwald knights:


Later Minchiate:





Tarocchino knights (I know only horses)



Just a heads-up to Ludophone, who wrote:

These cards, if they have the 4 moors, are not 17th century, as the incident resulting in the Moors was in 1725. When the British Museum originally wrote about this deck, based on Wilshire 1878, this information was not known. Ross set me straight on this point once.

Thanks for pointing them out. The BM's images are just too small that I glossed over them.

Regarding the Rosenwald sheets being Bolognese or Florentine, we have to establish some sort of chronological order.

As Ross pointed out, the trumps and the plain suits come from different decks, they could be made in different cities and/or decades apart.

Before and after trionfi was invented, the Florentines played with some sort of standard deck which is probably reflected in two of the Rosenwald sheets. They are missing the 10s but this is not unusual as there isn't an easy way to print 52 cards on just two sheets. Here in Budapest's Fine Arts Museum (sadly closed for renovation), there is a sheet containing nothing but 10s. These sheets are likely Florentine as Huck points out that the knights are monsters. The similarities between Bolognese cards and Florentine ones are no surprise as they are close to one another. The Florentine pips may have changed to the "Portuguese" system at a later date.

The Rosenwald trumps could be Bolognese with the exception of two facts: the Chariot is too high and the cards are numbered. Bolognese trumps aren't numbered until the 18th century (see Rothschild sheet). The Rosenwald order is also similar to the Florentine/Roman strambotti which is written somewhat later. The maker could fit only 24 cards per sheet. There is possibly a sheet with nothing but Fools and Queens of batons like the 10s sheet.

I don't know much about Bolognese minchiate but Lucchese minchiate has men on horses instead of monsters. BTW Huck, going through some of your old posts, you refer to them as being 69-card decks which is out of date. I'll quote here from the IPCS unsolved problems page :

[March 2012: An incomplete Orfeo pack in Mr. Stuart Kaplan's collection, that was offered at auction in 2006 (auction catalogue, no. 128), yielded some of the missing trumps, namely: IIII-VI, VIII, XIII, XV, XXII, XXIIII-XXVIII, XXX, XXXIIII. Therefore, it is possible that all Orfeo packs were in fact regular Minchiate packs.]

It was probably just bad luck that all the previous Lucca decks were found with so few trumps.

I also can't agree with the assertion that Charles VI had only 16 trumps all of which survived. While I am no expert on Renaissance handwriting, others have found them numbered which is why they are now given a type A order and Florentine provenance. The Angel is 20, followed by the World 19, etc. This is my opinion: the Charles VI was produced after the strambotti in which case it dates from the early 16th century and lacks the Popess so the deck had only 20 trumps + Fool (77 card in total). The order of the trumps is near identical with the strambotti and exactly the same as germini sans the extra trumps. CVI was either produced in the narrow time frame before germini or coexisted with germini, since trionfi/tarocchi was still mentioned alongside germini until the early 17th century. Here is my non-precise timeline:

Rosenwald trumps (mid 15th)> strambotti (late 15th)> decks with CVI order including CVI itself (very late 15th/early 16th)> germini (very late 15th/early 16th)


With the exception of Bologna's equal papi, the missing popess in the latter three, and the 20 extra trumps in germini, all cards not in this chart are in the same order.

Note: By germini I am referring to the 97-card deck. I believe "minchiate" was a game played with the 78/77 card deck ("trionfi") in the 15-16th centuries before the name was appropriated by the larger deck. Pratesi noted that "tarocchi/tarocco" was the least used term in Florence.

Ross G Caldwell

Ludophone, don't forget about the Castello Ursino - aka Catania cards. They are numbered, where they are numbered, like Charles VI. E.g., the Chariot is 10 (in Arabic numbers).

The King of Swords shows what is best interpreted as the emblem of Alessandro Sforza (1409-1473), so it is best to date it in his lifetime.

Charles VI and Catania cards are very possibly by the same artist, so they should be dated together. I can see no good reason why they should not date even as early as the 1440s, but I could accept as high as 1470. The numbering could have been done decades later, to a time the Strambotto reflects, when the Popess, or at least one of the Papi, had been dropped (the best explanation is that it was, in fact, a Popess, perhaps too much ridicule even than a Pope in a card deck; by the time of the Minchiates of the 17th century, all three of them were "Emperors").

Ross G Caldwell

Here is the comparison, the stone emblem with the initials "AL SF" is from the castle of Gradara.


"l’anello con diamante e il fiore di cardo" - Diamond ring and thistle flower.