Germini - Florentine-French Trionfi 1506


Germini is an alternative expression for the Minchiate game.

Franco Pratesi had earlier found three appearances of the word Minchiate for 1466 (a letter of Luigi Pulci), 1470/71 (a juristic case of blasphemy, card playing in a church) and 1477 (game allowance in city statutes).

In earlier research the first "Germini" had appeared in 1529 (also Pratesi).

In 2012 two older documents were found, for 1517 and 1519, both in relation to the Florentine ruler Lorenzo di Medici (the younger, lived 1492-1519), also known as "duke of Urbino". Lorenzo played Germini.

New Discovery

Franco Pratesi has published in the IPCS-issue 44/1 an article ...

1499-1506: Firenze - Nuove informazioni sulle carte fiorentine

The topic are 2 documents found by Lorenzo Böninger, likely the author of a work "Die Deutsche Einwanderung Nach Florenz Im Spätmittelalter" (2006). One is from 1499, the second is from December 1506.

Franco gives the location as ...
ASFI, Inventario N 35
ASFI, Mercanzia, 11585
c.117v and c. 119r
(if I understand that correctly)

Böninger found two inventories, one reporting the possessions [added: in a case of garnishment] of a cardmaker "Sinibaldo (= Giovanbattista) di Francesco Monaldi chartaro" (in this only "3 paio di forme a da fare charte" are of interest, confirming the idea, that this might be a playing card producer) and a second case of garnishment with much more details, in which the word "germini" appears twice and additional to that a "1 paio di tr(i)onfi alla franc(i)osa non finiti", which I interpret as an "unfinished French Trionfi deck", this likely owned by the same man now called "Giovanbattista di Francesco Monaldi" (an alternative would be, that Sinibaldo and Giovanbattista were brothers).

Franco's article is in Italian language, so I've my trouble to understand all details of his explanations. It's clear, that this is the oldest "Germini" note now, after the finding of "Germini" a few years ago in 1517 and 1519.

A second revolutionary condition can be associated with the "unfinished French Trionfi deck", which would confirm that there were French Trionfi decks in 1506 and curiously it seems, that a Florentine cardmaker attempted to reproduce these.

The both notes are given by Franco as follows:

Document 1499:

Document 1506:

It are two cases of garnishment. The reason for the garnishments isn't known. It's (only) a possibility, that it relates to an action of the cardmaker against a prohibition, possibly a prohibition against playing card use (a more trivial reason might be, that Monaldo had simple debts).

The time 1499 is short after May 1498. when Savonarola was burnt. Savonarola had burnt cards between other luxury goods 1497/98 and this might have driven Florentine cardmakers into a crisis. And with Savonarola's death Savonarolism had been still a strong power in the city of Florence. So the return to a normal "state with playing cards" in end of 1499 might be even called early (after Capristanus' appearance in Nuremberg it took a few years, till playing card business returned to normal conditions).

The Medici were driven out of Florence in 1494-1512. For this period the situation of card playing in Florence (prohibited or not prohibited) is not clear. With security there existed always an "underground market".

The second document has twice the word "germini". Further there is an "unfinished French Trionfi deck" in December 1506.
From French documents we know, that a game "Taraux" had been produced in Avignon in December 1505 (Avignon had a lot of card producers). Avignon was not really "France", but papal territory, so a production of some Italian playing cards in Avignon needn't to be really "French production". In 1503 pope Julius II was chosen and he had been earlier archbishop of Avignon for 27 years, then still addressed as cardinal Giuliano della Rovere. When Borgia became pope Alexander VI in 1492, Giuliano had to leave Italy, cause Borgia was his enemy and he feared for his life. Julius had then engaged for the French military attacks in Italy (1494/95 and 1499-1500).

From Ferrara (June 1505) we know, that the young duke (duke since January 1505) Alfonso d'Este ordered the production of "Tarochi" cards (and that's the oldest appearance of a word similar to "Tarot" in a playing card context).

About pope Julius (here suspected to be a Taraux deck commissioner) and Alfonso d'Este (confirmed Tarochi commssioner) it's known, that they were foes. Already in 1504 (before Alfonso became duke of Ferrara) Julius desired, that the younger brother Ferrante d'Este should become duke, not Alfonso. Julius especially didn't like, that Alfonso was married to a Borgia daughter.

About the relationship between the d'Este brothers it's known, that there were big tensions in 1505/06. Cardinal Ippolito d'Este (on the side of Alfonso) ordered an attack on Giulio d'Este (on the side of Ferrante; this was in late 1505, so inside the two Tarochi notes; a second production was ordered in December). Giulio's eyes were hurt, so that he became more or less blind.
In summer 1506 Ferrante and Giulio attempted a plot to make Ferrante new duke of Ferrara; the plot was crashed by Alfonso and both were sentenced to death, but later released to life-long prison right under the kitchen of Ferrara castle.

Julius himself became aggressive. In autumn 1506 he attacked and conquered Bologna, in about 35 km distance to Ferrara. The ruling Bentivoglio family took refuge in Ferrara.

Playing cards were a tool for political propaganda. When Alfonso made new Tarochi decks in Ferrara, the opponent pope Julius might have felt it necessary to answer the action with a Taraux production.

Indeed there is one extant Tarocchi deck fragment, which presents some Rovere heraldic: the Leber Tarocchi. Pope Julius II belonged to the Rovere family.


This was all older stuff, debated already a few years ago.

New is now, that in December 1506 the name Germini appeared for the first time (at least according the new state of research, bove described) and together (1505 the new words "Taraux and Tarochi" and 1506 the new expression "Germini") one might suspect, that one game name change possibly caused the other.

Also new is the condition, that the cardmaker in Florence had a French-Florentine Trionfi deck "in work", not finished ... "1 paio di tr(i)onfi alla franc(i)osa non finiti". Which likely means, that he saw a deck, from which he either knew, that it was made "in France" or which presented "a French style" (perhaps simply a deck with French suit signs).

At this point one might suspect, that he possibly saw a deck "from Avignon".

And he possibly attempted to imitate it.


Bernardo Rucellai had spent some longer time in Avignon ... just in the year 1506. He might have reported the card game change in Avignon to Florence.

He - nearly the same age as Lorenzo di Medici - was a youth friend of Lorenzo and became later brother-in-law to him by marrying one of his sisters.
The poet Luigi Pulci (17 years older than Lorenzo) was close to Lorenzo, likely cause he got some educative function (poetry) for the Medici boys by Lorenzo's mother, Lucretia Tornuabuoni, around 1460. Pulci's family had a mill in the Mugello close to one of the Medici villas, which was used by Medici mother and boys for holidays. Likely the Medici boys were occasionally accompanied by close friends, for instance Bernardo Rucellai.
In 1466 Luigi Pulci wrote to Lorenzo (meanwhile 16 years old) a letter, in which he mentioned the game Minchiate. This is the first known document about Minchiate. So Bernardo likely had been (likely) close to the beginnings of Minchiate

Both boys and young men, Lorenzo and Bernardo, became active in matters of literature in early youth. The educative program of Lorenzo's mother was successful.

After the Medici were driven out of Florence (1494) Bernardo created a new meeting place for the now homeless Platonic academy, the Orti Oricellari, the gardens of his house in Florence at the Palazzo Rucellai.

He was of importance for the cultural life in Florence.