New Pratesi note on Cary-Yale


Sherryl: When you ask whether the sequence was created in a folk atmosphere or a courtly one, one answer might be: both. How is that possible? Well, if some cards were created for a court, and other cards were created for the people, it is quite possible. It is only impossible if all the cards were created at once for the same consumers, as Ross maintains. ....... But I would be interested in knowing which of those 16 you find particularly folksy

Unfortunately, all we have for the 15th century are courtly cards, until you get to the block printed sheets, like the Metropolitan sheet. It's my hypothesis that decks like the Carey Yale and Visconti-Sforza were courtly versions of a popular deck. I don't think any of the images are so rarified that it required an educated aristocrat to come up with them.

What I find especially folksy is the structure of the trump suit itself. There's a story line and a hierarchy, but it seems a bit willy-nilly. How was it decided what images to include, and what to leave out? I get the sense that it was somewhat arbitrary, that popular, easily recognized images were selected. If an educated courtier had constructed this suit, I would expect something more systematic -- like the cards falling obviously into three sets of seven, or some other scheme.


Certainly anyone trained as an artist and aware of artistic conventions of the time could have invented the images. Moreover, the 22 do fall into patterns, i.e. a beginning pattern, a middle pattern, and an end pattern, even if it is not 7-7-7. It would not take a humanist to figure that out.

My hypothesized 16 seems to me to be very systematic, not "willy nilly", once the number 16 is chosen, from Marziano. The subjects are based on just a few sources, mostly the triumphs of Petrarch and Boccaccio and the seven triumphal virtues. For a game called "triumphs", there is not much else to choose from that is common knowledge. Given those sources, there is not much choice involved, just which triumph to take from Boccaccio. As for the 4x4 structure, that, too, is pretty rigid. The only group of 4 among the subjects is that of the cardinal virtues. However the 4x4 structure is not obvious; it would likely require not only a humanist but someone familiar with Marziano's game to figure it out, unless they were instructed by someone, in which case it would be easy. Either way, it is pretty elitist. The Minchiate order of 16 proposed by Pratesi (which I endorse for Florence but not Milan) is also systematic and considerably less elitist.

There are other explanations for the other 10 subjects, if they were added later. There are many possibilities, some of them humanistic and some not. Most have to do with additions or other changes within a particular section, as opposed to the sequence as a whole. Christian Platonism is a framework that can apply to the whole, but different passages in Plato (or pseudo-Dionysius, the main Christian Neoplatonist known then) to different cards. Plato can incorporate all of the 16 except maybe Faith, Hope, Charity, and Prudence. Plato's Republic was first translated in 1402, revised in 1436-1440, in Milan, by the two Decembrios. The other relevant dialogues were translated in the 1420s, by Leonardo Bruni in Florence. Pseudo-Dinoysius was newly translated by Traversari in Florence in around 1436. These translators are fairly heavyweight figures in their own right, major figures in the governing circles of the two cities. Plato was much discussed, since for most of this it was the first time Western Europeans could actually read him. Of his work, only part of the Timaeus had been translated before 1400. (By "translated", I mean from Greek to Latin; also, all the centers of the tarot had resident Greek-reading humanists.) For my version of this interpretation of all 22 subjects, more or less in order, see my blog at

It was standard then, explicitly stated by Petrarch and others before and after him, that the best works of art had different levels of meaning: literal, allegorical, and more, and not confined to the author's intentions. That made them "hieroglyphs". What are just "fun" figures for the masses, somewhat randomly chosen, hide profound meaning for the intellectual, just like the figures on the Egyptian obelisks, which surely looked "willy nilly" to the average Roman in 1440 (or even 40). This is true in other areas of Renaissance art: For example, the flowers in Renaissance paintings sometimes seem randomly chosen, but often they had very particular symbolism relating to the theme of the painting.

I don't know why you say that "folksy" indicates "arbitrary". All the folk art, folk literature, and folk dances I've seen are fairly non-arbitrary. Uneducated people like order, and even surprises should be meaningful ones. "Arbitrary" is for them something from the bosses' world, in which case asking "why" is just asking for trouble. The cards do have an order, that's all that matters. It is educated people, at least some of them, who find apparent disorder, or even real disorder, fascinating, for then they can try to bring order to the chaos.


Kwaw wrote
Sodomy is not necessarily homosexual - one of Medici's carnival poems refers to resorting to sodomy during a woman's period (euphemistically as making use of 'the neighbour's little pot') - or as a way to avoid pregnancy.
Bernardino gets his porn from the Bible. Here is Wikipedia:
Genesis (chapters 18-20) tells how God wished to destroy the "sinful" cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Two angels are invited by Lot to take refuge with his family for the night. The men of Sodom surround Lot's house and demand that he bring the messengers out so that they may "know" them (the expression includes sexual connotations). Lot protests that the "messengers" are his guests and offers the Sodomites his virgin daughters instead, but then they threaten to "do worse" with Lot than they would with his guests. Then the angels strike the Sodomites blind, "so that they wearied themselves to find the door." (Genesis 19:4-11, KJV)
This seems to imply male on male, at least in the Sodomites' intention. (I do not think we need to debate whether angels have sexual apparatus.)

Kwaw wrote,
However, I read it somewhat differently, as I read it the reference is to only to two court cards, kings and queens, the second in each is a descriptive epiteth, rather than a separate card? King (King of Lechers), Queen (Queen of Sluts); above is sodomy, below is wantoness. The 'above' is a knight, and that 'below' is the valet, so the knight is a sodomite and the valet is wanton/lustful. If that is the case then the order is the standard King & Queen (of male and female ribalds), Knight (over, sopra, sodomite) and Valet (under, sotto, lust).
I do not see any parentheses in Bernardino, and anyway, you have to suppose that he is first talking about two cards and then, although as part of the same metaphor, talking about two other cards. That would be a "mixed metaphor", which I doubt that Bernardino would be guilty of. I am assuming that he is not mixing his metaphor, but is being straightforward. Also, why should the "above" be a sodomite and the "below" be lustful? It would seem that sodomy is worse, i.e. lower, than lust; so the valet ought to be the sodomite. The epithets only make sense if the "above" is male-male, as the upper part of the hierarchy, and the "below" female-female, as the lower part. Everyone knows that males are above and females below, in the natural order of things.

Ross G Caldwell

Steve is correct, there are only four court cards.

The "ribalds" Bernardino refers to are the card players themselves; the King of the deck is their king, the Queen is their queen.

Sopra and sotto are the same as "milites inferiores et superiores", what the Germans call by the same names, "Ober" and "Unter".

Thierry mistranslated the Italian, taking the words as prepositions rather than names of the cards. I wrote him to point this out, and he immediately recognized his mistake.

I also pointed it out to Huck when he interpreted it just as you did -


The epithets only make sense if the "above" is male-male, as the upper part of the hierarchy, and the "below" female-female, as the lower part. Everyone knows that males are above and females below, in the natural order of things.

It is male-male. The Sopra (Knight - military superior) is the sodomite, who 'tops' the Sotto (his valet, military inferior), the 'bottom' who is wanton (lustful) for it.

edited to add:

As I see Ross, in link above, has already spelt out:


Yes, I see. The metaphor about the king and queen is a continuation of the "brevery" idea, so only two cards. Then there is the ober and the unter. So it is the usual sequence.


Sherryl wrote (on p. 2 of this thread)
This brings up another question: Which is more likely, that tarot was invented in a courtly setting and trickled down to the masses? Or the aristocrats took up a popular game and indulged in a fad for gold-plated cards.
In answering "both", so as to make a point about different presentations for different audiences, I did not quite do justice to Sherryl's question. Ideally, it is a question for sociologists of culture who might study the transmissions of amusements between classes. But I don't know of such studies. So I have been thinking.

It seems to me that upper class people tend to look down on the lower classes as though their amusements were crude. On the other hand, with certain improvements in the game, so that it requires more mental skill than originally, they might identify the deck with the improved game rather than the cards themselves. In general, amusements that require physical dexterity but little else seem to be admired by people who work with their hands and bodies. I am thinking of a game popular among lower-class young people where I live, called Hackysack. It involves tossing a small bean-bag using only your legs and feet, keeping it in the air. I have never seen kids playing it in upper-class areas, only lower-class neighborhoods, around loading docks, etc.. Mental dexterity seems to be favored by those involved in mentally dominant pursuits in the rest of their lives. However it might have started out as a children's game, so less complex even for the upper class. Some members of all classes are attracted by gambling, so the use of cards itself is not class determined. If it is a matter of the complexity of the game for adults, another problem is that we don't know the original rules. And finally, lower class people with higher aspirations, and middle class people, can be attracted to mentally challenging games. Thus individual instances of tarot playing, such as in criminal cases (criminals who think their brains can get them rich), are not a reliable guide. So I have no answer, only speculations about what the cards and the game might have looked like with different consumers in mind.

Ross G Caldwell

In response to the previous, Mike's thoughts on Sherryl's question.

One way to approach the question is to see if there are examples either way.

I can think of one clear example of the game going “from the street to the court”, as it were.
The Este family, ruling in Ferrara, bought at least one common, cheap pack of Triumph cards in 1442 (as well as making luxurious, custom versions in their own in-house workshop). Since they bought the cheap pack from a Bolognese fabric-merchant (or mercer), this seems to give the notion of common packs priority. We know now (since 2011) that the trade of such mercers, above all from Florence, was responsible for the rapid diffusion of the game all over Italy in the 1440s and 1450s.

Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan, issued decrees in 1419 and 1420 against a kind of card game (rules of play, not images) that upset the natural order of the cards and thereby implied social disorder (a game like Karnöffel is possibly implied). About that time he also designed, with one of his advisors, Marziano da Tortona, an entirely unique kind of card game with a set of 16 cards, depicting Roman gods (understood Euhemeristically as deified heroes), that served as permanent trumps.

So it seems that the rich reacted to the ubiquity of playing cards by adapting them to their own tastes, both commissioning luxurious hand-made versions of regular cards, or in one case inventing a new game entirely.

Playing cards themselves came to Europe in an obscure way, probably by means of trade with Mamluk Egypt, or more broadly the Levant, in the 1360s. The evidence for this comes from the kind of sources that indicate they were played by all levels of society as soon as they appeared, from princely ledgers and inventories down to civic and ecclesiatical prohibitions on playing card games, or at least gambling games. Cards were therefore popular with all classes, and not identified as a low-class object or kind of play in general.

Jacopo Marcello was introduced to the game of Triumphs in early 1449, but the pack he played with was a cheap kind, so that when he though of sending it to Queen Isabelle of Lorraine as a novelty, he said it was unworthy of royalty. He sought immediately to find an artisan to make one fit for a Queen, but then heard of Visconti’s 16 Heroes game, and went to get that prize for her instead. In the end, he sent both packs of cards to her, even the “unworthy” one, as enough of a novelty to overcome its commonness.

So I favour the scenario of the game of Triumphs being adopted “up” by the rich and princely classes from the artisan or professional class that created it, rather than “down” from the rich to the common. I don’t think there would be some kind of class prejudice against it, since card-playing in general was not restricted to a certain class, and since the rich could and did make luxury versions of the common pack for their own use.


Ross: So something like Karnöffel, with its practice of having one of the suits as trumps, and perhaps one card serving as Emperor, was probably present in Milan already in 1419 or so. Good to know.

I agree that cards in general were not associated with a particular class, and especially in the case of gambling games. As I said, " Some members of all classes are attracted by gambling, so the use of cards itself is not class determined." The question is about Triumphs. If Marziano's game counts as Triumphs, that's an example of a deck with a fifth suit of allegorical trumps as an aristocratic innovation (if indeed his was the first).

To be sure, aristocrats would buy cheaper decks (although probably not the cheapest) for day-to-day play, because you don't want to wear out an expensive and beautiful object.

As far as the rapid diffusion from Florence in the 1440s-1450s, there is also the phenomenon of celebrity endorsement, i.e. if the rich and famous have something, it must be good. Malatesta in 1440, for example, was rather famous.

It seems to me that we don't know enough to make an educated guess on Sherryl's question. Too many variables. All we can do is develop different scenarios based on different assumptions.


In previous posts I advanced some hypotheses I want to explore further, in relationship to their corresponding iconography. (1) The sequence in a Milanese pattern, one conforming to the Cary-Yale as it is structured in the notes conveyed to Yale by the Cary family, would have come to Florence separated from its interpretive scheme, and therefore Florence would have constructed one of their own with the same cards, a predecessor of both the minchiate and the Florentine tarot. The minchiate keeps all 16 of the Milan cards, while the Florentine tarot rearranges, adds to, and subtracts from, the Milan 16. (2) At some point, perhaps more than one, the Florentine deck then would have influenced, in its subjects, the tarot in Milan, including at some point an exchange of Hope, Faith, and Charity, for the Star, Moon, and Sun of Florence. The changes in the tarot are essentially the result of a change in the market for the cards, from one ruler and his designated favorites to a mass market.

I now want to go into more detail, especially regarding changes in subject and iconography.

First, as I have said, the sequence would have dropped the complex Marziano-inspired structure of four groups of four governed by the four cardinal virtues hypothesized for Milan. Instead, it is a progression through life. The Emperor and Empress would have represented the protagonists; they are like the prince and princess in fairy tales. They marry (Love) and have triumphs (Chariot), in the course of which they exercise Temperance, Fortitude and Justice. They experience reversals (Fortune), grow old (Old Man), die (Death), live on in memory (if not fame) (World), and rise to heaven at Judgment Day (Angel).

That the Chariot card in Florence changes to a male triumphator (, shows the card makers' irreverence for Petrarch's and Boccaccio's poems, which have no such charioteer. However the triumphator would have already been familiar from illustrations of Petrarch's Of Illustrious Men, and accounts of Roman triumphal processions, where the triumphator was in a chariot. Time, a distant abstraction in Petrarch, is moved before Death as the "Old Man." Fame exchanges the CY's trumpets for a globe and scepter, and the lower scene of the Cary-Yale ( shrinks and elevates so as to become a globe in the clouds ( With such features, it is natural to call it "World", ambiguous--like people after death--between achievement in this world and in the next.

Putting the virtues together. usually in the order Plato had them in the Republic (, from Dummett's Game of Tarot), shows the indifference to or ignorance of the Marziano-style structure and a sense of wanting to make the meaning of the sequence clearer, surrounded by cards pertaining to life in this world. Love keeps to the chivalric tone of Petrarch while freeing it from the CY's suggestion of the marriage of state (the handshake and the heraldics): the Charles VI tarot has several couples and no suggestion of marriage ( i/6 - gli amanti/gli amanti/Foto 5.jpg); the Rosenwald has a man kneeling before his beloved, with Cupid overhead; the minchiate shows a man being crowned by a woman, apparently drawing on the theme from chivalry of the lady bestowing a token on her chosen knight ( It also justifies incorporating him as one of five "papi" (as described in Wikipedia's article on minchiate); from a look at the others, it would seem that the Pope has been discreetly dropped and the two clean-shaven figures have undergone a sex-change (,

But what about Prudence? Why was it dropped from the tarocchi and, although retained in minchiate, put in with the theologicals? The hypothesis I have suggested offers a plausible answer to this frequently asked question. First, what might the card have looked like in Milan? Dummett suggested that the Popess card of the PMB replaced the Prudence card ([i[The Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards[/i], 1986, p. 106, Il Mondo e l’Angelo, 1993, p. 418). This makes sense, and not only because the four surviving virtues of the Cary-Yale, along with presence of the other two in other 15th century tarots, suggest its presence in the CY. Another reason is that in fact the cross-staff and book of the PMB Popess (you can see her at were typical medieval attributes of Prudence and Wisdom, listed as such in Adolph Katzenellenbogen, Allegories of the Virtues and Vices in Mediaeval Art London, 1939, index entries under "attributes" for “book,” and “cross-staff” (examples are, 9th century, and, 13th century); the only other virtue with these attributes was faith, and that rarely. So it makes sense that the Prudence card would have had the attributes of cross-staff and book.

It seems to me that Florentines might have found such a card confusing when playing the game, because there would have been another card also with a lady holding a cross-staff, the theological virtue Faith, which in the Cary-Yale also had a woman with a cross-staff. In Florence the attributes of Prudence were typically looking-glass and serpent, as displayed on Pisano's famous baptistry doors, c. 1350, known to everyone in the city (; it is also how Lo Scheggia ( and Pesselino ( portrayed Prudence on wedding chests of c. 1460. It is true that in Florence Prudence and Wisdom were also shown with book and staff, sometimes topped with a cross (e.g., in the Laurentian Library, Florence, Bibbia Mugellana 2, f. 189). But this image is in an illuminated manuscript, known only to lovers of expensive books. In Florence, for a mass market, one or the other of the two cards, Prudence or Faith, needed either to be dropped or changed.

My proposal is that when the Pope was added to the tarot (more about that later), it made sense to re-christian, so to speak, the card as his wife the Popess, dropping the cross-staff in the process and adding the three-tiered crown, so as to avoid the confusion with Faith, presumably still in the deck. However since the Faith card in the tarot was in fact at some point dropped, or changed into something else, along with Hope and Charity, that may have happened in some decks, before standardization. Whatever happened to Faith would have probably happened to the other two at the same time, because the three were lumped together.

I notice that in the "Marseille" style cards the Popess has a book and no staff; in the Rosenwald ( the staff is replaced by a key. In the Metropolitan/Budapest sheets (Ferrara/Venice), she has a staff--a crozier---and a key; there may or may not be a book ( These might be two variant ways of removing one of the attributes of Prudence so as to transform the card. It was OK to keep the staff in Ferrara/Venice; it no longer had a cross, and probably the Faith card and the other twohad already been dropped/changed. In Milan's PMB, she had both attributes of Prudence; perhaps Faith had been dropped/changed by then.

In minchiate, on the on the hand, Prudence was retained but redesigned to have the attributes of looking glass and serpent. That it was put in with the Theological Virtues as number 17 might be explained as the reinsertion of one part of what had been removed from the tarot. Putting it between two other theological virtues makes it clear that they are all part of what the minchiate insisted on retaining, without disturbing the part of the sequence that was in common with the tarot deck.

One other virtue in Milan may also have been difficult to recognize in Florence. Fortitude was not typically portrayed in Florence with a lion, but with a drawn sword or a column. However the story of St. Mark and the lion was well enough known to make the association, as were those of Hercules and Samson. It was easy enough for card makers to adapt the card to Florentine taste, showing Fortitude with a column instead of a lion.

As for book and staff, in minchiate these attributes were transferred to the Faith card, but turning the book into a "tablet of the law" and the staff into a spear ( The "tablet of the law" bears some resemblance to the scroll of Giotto's depiction of Faith in Padua, on which could be seen the first words of the Nicean and Constantine creeds (according to Andrea Vitali in his essay "La Papessa"; the spear resembles the cross-staff. However it is now not Faith as the gift of the sacraments (with the cup), but rather as the faith of creeds, acceptance of which saves from condemnation both in life and in death, hence the spear (although that was sometimes dropped). It is a picture of the Faith or Church Militant and Triumphant of the Counter-Reformation. Given the needs of the Church before and after 1521 (Luther's reaction to his condemnation), it is not possible to speculate on whether this design for the Minchiate Faith card is likely to have existed before that date.

In any event, there are now additions to the sequence, of which the earliest surviving examples are in the PMB: Fool, Bagatella (Magician), Popess, Pope, and Traitor (Hanged Man). These are all rather unexpected, given the pre-existing sequence. If the lowest members of society were intended so as to complement the highest, why a street performer, of all things, as opposed to a beggar and an artisan, as in the "tarot of Mantegna"? If a deceiver was wanted, why not somebody worse than the trivial deceptions of a street performer, for example a Traitor. who in fact appears in the cards, but as 12th? Why a demented person, or a professional Fool, instead of a beggar? And why a Pope and Popess?

The Pope can be explained as follows: Someone wanted to say that the Pope is higher in authority than the Emperor; so they create the card so that it can beat that of the Emperor. That addition might have been in Florence, which having kicked out its Ghibellenes had no relationship to the Holy Roman Empire and instead was banker to the Pope. It could also have been in Bologna or Ferrara, both of which were part of the papal states. Milan is less likely, because its duke's allegiance was to the Emperor. They did not count on the Church's finding it offensive that the Pope would be in a card game.

At that point, the Popess could be added to complement the Pope. The Pope card is fully capable of standing on its own, as there is no office in the Church called "Popess." But given that the Church is legally the wife of the Pope, there is an opportunity to represent the Church as Popess. It doesn't have to be there, but it parallels the Empress and gives a place for the body whose representatives elect the Pope and which carries out his decisions, a body which includes women as well as men. It is also, virtually unavoidably, an opportunity for a nice risque joke, a hint of Pope Joan or perhaps a papal mistress or two. That fits the mood of Florence or Ferrara. As such, she probably would get papal vestments, as we see in the Rosenwald ( She also loses the cross-staff, to avoid any possible confusion with Faith, which is still in the deck as a theological virtue.

In Milan she keeps both book and staff, and also gets a very particular outfit: a simple brown habit with white wimple. That is at least one outfit worn by the female Umiliati (as "Phaeded" showed at, of which, for the few Visconti descendants who might have known, was the habit of the order to which belonged a certain Manfreda, cousin of Matteo Visconti, who considered herself Pope and was burned at the stake in 1300. That was Dummett's explanation for the habit (Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards, p. 106, following Moakley). Bianca Maria Visconti, Duchess of Milan, was in a position to know about Manfreda, from her father and perhaps a document that surfaced in Pavia during the 17th century. She was also in a position to know about the Umiliati habit, from her uncle, General of the order (per Wikipedia on Bianca Maria). Out of admiration or simply someone her children should know about, she might have thought it important to have Manfreda in the deck, bearing regalia of Christian wisdom. On the other hand, we might ask, would she really have endorsed a heretic, and have risked the enmity of the Pope to memorialize her? Or would she have judged that if she kept her secret quiet, in a deck designed solely for the private use of her family and a few others, while the popular deck was more like that of Florence, the Pope would also keep quiet? I have no answer. But the "Manfreda" hypothesis at least explains the habit, which has a white wimple instead of the Poor Clares' black.

I see adding the Fool and the Bagatella as a more overt form of the ribaldry latent in the Popess. Like Pope Joan, the Bagatella is a professional illusionist, and the professional Fool a master of double-entendres. Given that the Rosenwald Bagatella combines features of the two figures, they may not have been differentiated at first in Florence, until later in hand-painted decks influenced by Milan, where the card is clearly an object of fun. In the PMB version, there is something a little more serious, a hint of the Holy Fool in his halo-like white feathers and blank expression, similar to that which Bonifacio Bembo otherwise gave to saints.

In the PMB Bagatella, given the wizened face and objects on the table resembling symbols for the suits and the elements (, there may also be something more serious, inspired by Plato's comparison of the world to a conjurer's illusions (Republic 602c-d), of a god who creates a world full of traps for those dominated by appetite.

Why would a Traitor be in the deck at all, much less as high as 12th? An explanation might be the traditional association of the image with the number 12, which the card most always was. as Judas was called the 12th disciple. In the Florentine version, the figure is shown grasping money bags, likely Judas's "30 pieces of silver". Also, rather obviously, the Traitor, as he was called, is about to die, and Death is the next card. In Milan there is again the possibility of another meaning. Just as the Popess is related to the Visconti, the Hanged Man is to the Sforza, as Francesco Sforza's father. If so, the card would not necessarily have been thought of only negatively, because Muzio Attendola had been accused of betrayal, with pictures of him hanging from one leg, by an antipope, and Muzio's withdrawal of support helped to secure the pretender's downfall.

Except for the Pope, it is hard to say where these additions were first, Milan, Florence, or elsewhere; but I am assuming Florence, because the added subjects, even if their earliest surviving examples are Milanese, seem tailor-made for popular consumption.

Next come the Devil and the Tower. The Devil's first surviving appearance are in the Rosenwald and Beaux Arts/Rothschild, both judged to be 16th century. The Tower's first is in the "Charles VI." Where and when they first appeared is not known. Like many other cards not of the original 16, there is a certain humor in these cards, in the way that Holloween costumes are humorous, in being scary unless not serious. I would expect them to be added first in Florence.

I come to the three luminaries. That they replaced the three theological virtues is suggested first from where they appeared in the sequence, in the same place as the minchiate had the theological virtues, right after the Devil and the Tower and before the Star, if we ignore the other cards unique to the mnchiate. But Hope appeared before Faith in the minchiate, as opposed to the Cary-Yale's apparent Faith-Hope-Charity. Why would that be? I think it is because the order of the luminaries took precedence, with the faintest of them first, the Star, corresponding to Hope. (I will discuss this correspondence later.) The order of increasing light is easy for card players to remember; it also corresponds to the idea of increasing enlightenment, which may be found in Plato's "allegory of the cave" and Christianity's use of the same metaphor of light. Positioning them after Death, at some point preceded by the Devil and the Tower, but before World and Angel. gives the sequence the sense of a journey, as in Plato's allegory, from beneath the earth to above the stars, accomplished in reality after death and in imagination before then. The minchiate adds to that sense with its four elements and twelve zodical constellations. In a way, the tarot also has these four elements: Death as the earth, then Temperance as water, or perhaps going directly to air as the Devil (devils were often shown grabbing souls in the air and pulling them down), and the Tower, an early name for which was "Fuoco", fire, as the fourth.

In what city the luminaries first appeared is suggested by the Rosenwald (presumably Florentine), where they appear in their most primitive form, as simply the heavenly bodies. Other decks show great regional differences in the added details. That suggests to me that there was still a felt need for the expression of local differences, but it came out in the details of the designs rather than the subjects and their order, which followed that of the Rosenwald pattern (which I am presuming was earlier than the sheet). Because the sequence Devil-Tower-Star-Moon-Sun is invariably the same in all the various early lists, unlike that of most of the other cards, it may have been made part of the tarot in all regions later than the rest of the cards that were added to the original 16, at a time when, after the Peace of Lodi, there was greater movement of people and goods among regions, and so a greater tendency toward standardizing the deck.

The imagery of the PMB is where the luminaries bear the best comparison with Hope, Faith, and Charity of the Cary-Yale. This is to be expected when one design replaces another; card players still like something visually to go on.

In both Hope and the Star, a lady is looking at the upper right of the card.

In other versions, e.g. Minchiate, this visual parallel does not hold, but the suggestion seems to be of the Star of Bethlehem, which of course signifies the hope of humanity


In both the Faith and Moon cards, a lady holds her right arm up and her left arm down.

This again does not hold in other versions, e.g. the one on the right above, from the Budapest/Metropolitan cards, a deck of the Ferrarese order of trumps. But an allegory connecting the Moon with Faith, even there, might be that in dark times Faith is what can keep us steady and firmly on the path. Such an allegory seems expressed in Bosch's "St. John of Patmos" ( Here the Moon is the Virgin, as a figure to whom one prays in time of need and of fear of demons.

The CY Charity lady holds a flame in her left hand and a suckling infant in her right ( In the PMB Sun card, an infant grabs the Sun itself, which like the flame is a source of vitality. The infant on the Sun card is not maintained in minchiate ( or other tarots, thus altering the allegory; however the Budapest/Metropolitan sheets, as an exception, show a sun shining down on trees, as though nourishing them.

To conclude: The tarot sequence is one that starts first as 16 cards in Milan (of which the Cary-Yale is a late representative), in which form it is transformed and augmented in Florence to at least the 21 seen in the Rosenwald (, although that sheet probably has mistakes in ordering the sequence. Perhaps in achieving this result Florence uses some subjects first introduced in other cities, such as Ferrara, but perhaps not. The Fool might have been added somewhere else and then incorporated into Florence's game. Meanwhile minchiate retains the original cards of Milan and adds many more, although discreetly dropping the Pope and changing the other three dignitarities, along with the Bagatella and Love (minus the god) to "papi".

I do not say with confidence that this is how the tarot and minchiate developed. It is only an elaboration of how it might have developed, consistent with the hypotheses advanced by Franco and by me in the essay that started this thread.

There is also the question, why assume a 16 card predecessor at all, much less in Milan? The initial reason was a matter of connecting the dots. namely, from the Marziano to the Cary-Yale and minchiate, explaining what is in common between the latter two in relation to the former. But also the hypothesis has other explanatory value: it can explain (1) why Prudence is not in the tarot (her Milanese attributes weren't recognized easily in Florence); and (2) why the luminaries, along with devil-tower, are always in the same order in all three regions of the early tarot (they came later than the ones with variable placement, where the latter category includes Angel-World). Probably other explanations can be given for these points; and (3) why the Rosenwald sheet with the triumphs has no Fool (because the standard Florentine deck had not distinguished it from the Bagatella; and (4) why Prudence in the Minchiate is in the middle of the three theologicals (these four are virtues that were earlier in the tarot but were removed, now restored in minchiate in a way that does not disturb the rest of the order taken from the tarot). To be sure, other explanations could probably be advanced for these facts, but the hypothesis under consideration at least can incorporate them fairly easily. To that hypothesis we can add another one: that the three luminaries replaced the three theologicals, as opposed to all six being formerly together. That would explain (5) why hope-faith-charity in minchiate have the same numbers as star-moon-sun in the tarot (to match the sequence of increasing light which in the tarot took the place of the theologicals), and (6) the common features in the postures of the ladies in the PMB luminaries, replacing similar postures in the Cary-Yale.