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Laura Borealis

Fascinating reading, thank you Huck.


Two new old Trionfi playing cards were reported in an article of the IPCS by Emilia Maggio, an empress and a 2 of clubs. The cards were found in the Palazzo Abatellis, Palermo, which has a collection of old playing cards.



It's proposed, that these cards have some context to the 15 cards at Castello Ursino in Catania (as Palermo a city on Sicily), known with the name "Alessandro Sforza Tarocchi" (reported at Kaplan I, p. 108-111), especially famous for a very strange representation of Temperantia:


Full deck at

A special detail was detected, that the both cards of Palermo were made from the paper of recycled notarial documents, which carry inscriptions from the year 1427 and 1428 (at inside layers of the papers). Additionally it was discovered, that the Temperantia card (from Catania) also had somewhere the year number 1428. So a connection between the both card groups seems rather probable.

Emilia Maggio has an earlier text to the Catania cards online.

A discussion (with more info) to the new finding you find with the search key " A Palermo Empress for the "Alessandro Sforza"? " at google.


A Palermo Empress for the "Alessandro Sforza"?

Came across it and read it yesterday, a very engrosssing and informative discussion.
Along with more info, it includes some well considered speculations based on known facts of time & place. Research at it's best.



OVERVIEW: Translation of recent Pratesi articles

As the translation by Michael Howard from recent articles of Franco Pratesi hide in various forum contributions, it might be good to have a thread, where one can find them.
Date and numbers refer to the articles in Italian language at the page
The thread you find at "OVERVIEW: Translation of recent Pratesi articles" in the Try the search engine with "OVERVIEW: Translation of recent Pratesi articles".

2015-07-10 (4/14)
1499-1506: Firenze - Nuove informazioni sulle carte fiorentine
1499-1506: Florence - New information on Florentine cards
A related article of Thierry Depaulis was also translated:
'Trionfi alia franciosa finiti e non finiti’ -Le tarot en France avant 1500

2015-10-09 (4/23)
1377: Firenze – Condanne ai giocatori di naibi
1377: Florence – Sentenced as players of naibi

2015-10-31 (4/25)
1451: Siena – Nuova legge sui giochi
1451: Siena - New laws on games

2015-11-07 (4/26)
1450, 1473, 1477: Firenze – Leggi sui giochi
1450, 1473, 1477: Florence - Laws on Games

2016-01-17 (5/02)
Cremona 1441? – Elucubrazioni sui tarocchi Visconti di Modrone o Cary-Yale
Ruminations on the Visconti di Modrone or Cary-Yale Tarot

2016-02-08 (5/05)
Commenti sulle carte islamiche
On Islamic Cards

2016-02-12 (5-06)
Trionfi milanesi e fiorentini – ipotesi e commenti
Milanese and Florentine Triumphs - Hypotheses and Comments

2016-04-26 (5/08)
Carte varie a Basilea nel 1377 o nel 1429
Various cards at Basel in 1377 or in 1429

2016-05-05 (5/10)
Carte da gioco in Europa prima del 1377 ? – Italia
Playing cards in Europe before 1377? - Italy

2016-05-13 (5/11)
1450ca: Firenze – Trionfi e deschi da parto
Ca. 1450: Florence - Triumphs and birth trays

2016-06-02 (5/12)
Carte da gioco in Europa prima del 1377 ? Polonia
Playing cards in Europe before 1377? - Poland

2016-06-07 (5/13)
Carte da gioco in Europa prima del 1377? Boemia
Playing cards in Europe before 1377? Bohemia

2016-06-15 (5-14)
Carte da gioco in Europa prima del 1377 ? – Buja
Playing cards in Europe before 1377? - Buja

2016-06-21 (5-15)
Carte da gioco in Europa prima del 1377? Aragona
Playing cards in Europe before 1377? Aragon.

2016-06-27 (5-16)
Il terzo foglio Rosenwald
The Third Rosenwald Sheet

2016-09-24 (5-19)
Carte da gioco in Europa prima del 1377 ? Berna
Playing cards in Europe before 1377? Berne.

2016-08-31 (5-17)
1450ca: Firenze – Trionfi e cassoni nuziali
C. 1450 - Trionfi and marriage chests


The 5x14-theory (as stated in 2003) ...
... has found some minor improvements in the following time. A major point is the interpretation of Franco Pratesi of a document in Bologna in the year 1477, according which in a contract decks with trumps are calculated in their price against decks without trumps in a relation of 5/4.
The assumption is, that the price followed the number of the produced cards for each deck type, so, that if a normal deck had 56 cards, a deck with trumps should have had (5/4)*56 = 70 cards. Naturally, if the considered deck type had only 13 cards for each suit, the total number of cards would have been 5*13 = 65 cards. The consideration confirms the 5x14 theory, though in an indirect way.
Pratesi's article exist only in Italian language:


Recently another improvement occurred:

Around 2012 and 2013 a lot of new early Trionfi card documents were found by Franco Pratesi (2012, mainly in Florence) and Arnold Esch (2013, in a custom archive in Rome, from 1453-1465). Most of these documents relate to the cheap market of the Trionfi deck and they confirm, that in the 1440s were only few productions, and that "big business with lots of decks" started in the 1450s. Also it was confirmed, that this "low price market" existed already in 1450-70, in earlier discussions one still could expect as a hypothesis, that Trionfi decks were just only an interest for very rich persons, maybe till the 1470s.

Further a new "oldest Trionfi document" was discovered by Thierry Depaulis, according which at 16th of September of 1440 Sigismondo Malatesta received from the notary Giusto Giusti a Trionfi deck, produced for a high price in Florence, especially decorated with heraldry of Malatesta.
The event had some context to the battle of Anghiari, after which Sigismondo Malatesta had changed the political side from pro-Visconti to pro-Florence.

It was observed and discussed very intensive a possible context between the "first appearance of the Trionfi name for a card deck" (1440) and the oldest reference to an illuminated version of the Trionfi poem of Petrarca (1441) and a specific cassone fashion in Florence (starting in 1440s), in which Trionfi poem content was painted on these cassone:


The idea is, that Petrarca's early fame started with Petrarca as a great scholar, and his career as a poet (and so his poems and also the "Trionfi") had been widely ignored. Further Petrarca had been born in Arezzo (which didn't belong then to Florence) and his father was banned from Florence and Petrarca lived near Avignon, Milan and Padova and not in Florence.
In 1384 Arezzo lost its independence to Florence and in 1436 Leonardo Bruni Arentino (from Arezzo), who had gained some attention in Florence, wrote a biography of Petrarca, likely with the clear intention to claim Petrarca as a poet from Florence or at least from Tuscany, together with Boccaccio and Dante. This action likely caused a growing attention for Petrarca in Florence, especially as Florence got the right to proceed the council of Ferrara (1438), which cause of a plague in Ferrara preferred to change the place. The participants of the council moved to Florence in 3 groups, and were celebrated after their arrival with 3 triumphal entries to the city (January/February 1439). The council in Florence (an intensive period of a 1/2 year) became a great political success, had many visitors from the outside and the income of the Medici exploded in this year. The competing council of Basel with the anti-pope Felix lost the public propaganda battle.

All this likely triggered, that "Trionfi" and "triumphal habits" and also the Trionfi poem and further as a minor detail also playing cards with the name Trionfi became an enduring fashion. We have no confirmation for a big public interests in the Trionfi cards in the 1440s, but clear signs of much public attention after the Jubilee year 1450 and the emperor visit to Italy in 1452.


As a part of these considerations Franco Pratesi asked recently ...

"Given the 6 triumphs of Petrarch, how could they be expanded up to the 22 ones of the tarot pack?"

A rather good question. The 14 trumps of the first painter of the PMB were once (at the start) sorted (according my opinion) ...

1 Magician (with 4 symbols on the table)

2 Popess
3 Empress
4 Emperor
5 Pope
6 Love (1st Trionfo of Petrarca)
7 Chariot with woman = Chastity (traditionally accompanied by virtues; 2nd Trionfo of Petrarca)
8 NEW: Justice = Fame (4th Trionfo of Petrarca)
9 Father Time (Trionfo of Petrarca)
10 Fortune (with 4 persons)

11 Fool
12 Traitor

13 Death (3rd Trionfo of Petrarca; finishes individual life)
14 NEW; Judgment = Eternity (6th Trionfo of Petrarca; finishes global life)


This arrangement would make sense ... all six Petrarca motifs would have been part of the arrangement. And it's simple, and simple means nice and suggestive

Well everybody would recognize the card Justice in the PMB as Justice, not as fame ... at least at first sight. But the problem of the first 14 trumps is, that Justice is the only one virtue in this deck, no other is present. That's a sort of contradiction. The second artist later added 6 virtues, but some of the virtues were transformed.

Fortitudo is given.
Temperance is given.
Prudentia is hidden behind world.
Sun-Moon-Star replace the 3 theological virtues.

This action could be justified by the condition, that the virtues accompanied Chastity (in the Petrarca text)


Michael J. Hurst has once done a great work to collect pictures of the Petrarca Trionfi at wikipedia.'s_triumphs

This makes it easy to look for anything, which connects Fame to Justice (or, what makes Fame look like Justice). It's there, but it's not one of the common motifs. Which doesn't mean much, as there were a lot of variations for Fame.


... it's taken from this:

... with the comment
"Triumphs of Fame, Time, and Eternity
Attributed to Domenico di Zanobi. - Scanned from Virtù d'amore. Pittura nuziale nel Quattrocento fiorentino."

A second "Justice as Fame":


... it's taken from this:


Full picture:
... with the comment:
"Illustration of Petrarch's Triumph of Fame, oddly depicted as Justice with sword and scales.
The artist is unknown. - Scanned from Von Bartsch: The Illustrated Bartsch, v.24."

Found at ...
... I found also the other 5 pictures of the series.

Further I found this collection of "Fame" ... 50 pictures

Love ... 43 pictures

Chastity ... 36 pictures

Death ... 32 pictures

Time ... 35 pictures

Eternity ... 26 pictures

I don't know, if this all goes back to Michael J. Hurst, anyway I observed earlier, that he was working on this. Maybe he found some followers, and that's very good.

Fame has 50 pictures, but a greater part is double or more than twice, so maybe there are 35 motifs only. 2 of them has "Justice as Fame". I found 6 of this following type, Fame with an archer on her left hand (and a sword in her right mostly):


Another larger group shows Fame victorious against death. Another Fame with 2 trumpets. A good part are single motifs, which don't belong to a category. So 2 of 35 might be not so bad for "Justice as Fame".

I attempted to analyze this second "Justice as Fame" ...


I had luck and could identify "Spendio" as "Spendios" and thereby repair "Ethio" as "Matho" or "Mathos" , both active in the first Punic war (both captives of Fame). Herkules and Caesar are clear, for "Ator" I can only suspect the Egyptian god with this name. As the Punic war had been a fight between Europe and Africa, and Caesar had been in Egypt, indicating another war between Europe and Africa, and Asia - Europe - Africa are otherwise given as a theme of the picture, Ator might be a plausible solution. The true political aim might be a new crusade, likely not against Africa, but against the Ottomans, the place, where one could gain the highest fame. The two rulers might be the contemporary pope and emperor ... or whoever.
Aiolus (god of the winds) was a standard attribute to Fame, cause one needs some air to blow the trumpet. The elephants are another standard attribute. The castle (perhaps Jerusalem ?) is somehow also indicated at the Cary-Yale Fame. A column was produced in 1452, when the emperor Fredrick III visited Italy and married. The form of the island with tree and cliffs remembers me on PMB and Sforza heraldry, strange enough. But generally I would assume, that the work is of a later date.

Alright, I think, that one should look at this card ...


... as a presentation of Fame, at least, if one assumes, that after so much talking the 5x14-theory has something to say.


A 3rd "Justice as Fame" was found at this picture ...

... actually once discovered by Ross Caldwell...

Ross took it as similar to the world card in the Alessandro Sforza deck, but I actually see the scales ...



Well, the theme is opened.

Franco Pratesi meanwhile has published his relevant article (for which he has asked the question: "Given the 6 triumphs of Petrarch, how could they be expanded up to the 22 ones of the tarot pack?")

1450ca: Trionfi e Triumphi

The 5x14-deck lies between 6 motifs (Petrarca's poem) and 22 motifs (Tarocchi pack), so it doesn't give a complete answer to the question. Naturally.