What is oldest known High Priestess?


Anyone know what is the oldest known High Priestess trump card. I mean an actual tarot trump, not art that is believed to have inspired the tarot. If you have a link that would also be very helpful. Thanks.


Anyone know what is the oldest known High Priestess trump card. I mean an actual tarot trump, not art that is believed to have inspired the tarot. If you have a link that would also be very helpful. Thanks.
Do you mean the oldest Popess?

I don't think any of the early decks are exactly dated:

Visconti-Sforza: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c3/Bonifacio_Bembo.jpg

Fournier: http://www.letarot.it/page.aspx?id=272&lng=ENG

Some people include the Cary-Yale Charity card, but I think that's pushing it: Cary-Yale: http://i0.wp.com/tarotator.com/wp-c...Yale-Visconti-Tarrochi-deck.jpg?fit=1024,1024


Thanks Mary!


Robert O'neill says: "However, beyond the deck specifically produced for the Visconti about 1450, the local Milanese phenomenon of Guglielmites is unlikely to be the source for the image on earlier decks, for example, the 1442 deck mentioned in an inventory of the Este estate in Ferrara.

Are there any images from the inventory mentioned above, or is O'neill just hypothesizing?


Robert O'neill says: "However, beyond the deck specifically produced for the Visconti about 1450, the local Milanese phenomenon of Guglielmites is unlikely to be the source for the image on earlier decks, for example, the 1442 deck mentioned in an inventory of the Este estate in Ferrara.

Are there any images from the inventory mentioned above, or is O'neill just hypothesizing?


This was only a document, referring to 4 decks produced at begin of 1442. They likely were commissioned for Leonello d'Este's start as new signore of Ferrara, after the father Niccolo d'Este had died short after Christmas in 1441.
It was long years considered the oldest Trionfi card document, till in 2012 a note was discovered in Giusto Giusti's diary (published by Nerida Newbigin in 2002). This related to the 17th of September 1440.


... see http://trionfi.com/giusto-giusti

It's not known, how much trumps these decks had and which motifs they used.

Meanwhile we've about 207 Trionfi card notes for the period 1440-1465, about 5% of them for 1440-1449.


For all these we can't say for sure, which motifs they had. And usually also not, how many trumps. A document of 1457 speaks of 70 cards (and possibly 14 trumps), a Bolognese document of 1477 speaks (according the analyzes of Franco Pratesi) from a relation of 5/4 between decks with Trionfi cards (70 cards ?) and normal cards (56 cards).

The best documented deck is - curiously - the Michelino deck (before 1425). It definitely had a trump sequence (16 cards) and totally likely 60 cards. The trumps were Greek-Roman gods and the suits were 4 kind of birds. It was called a "ludus triumphorum" in 1449 and it had strong differences to that, what is nowadays understood as Tarot cards. The commissioner was Filippo Maria Visconti, who was also commissioner for cards with stronger similarities to Tarot cards (Brera-Brambilla, Cary-Yale).


Thanks Huck, that answers my question. Appreciate it.


Thanks for the update, Huck. I thought I remembered an early Florentine deck but couldn't find the reference.


Well, for the Papessa theme we have ....

[You find more info to this, when you type "strambotti ross tarot jan 11 2010" at Google]

... a strambotto-poem, which (likely) is the oldest short poem, which includes a hierarchical row of Trionfi/Tarot trump card names. Poems like this were later rather often.

[A likely incomplete list of such poems is given here ...
http://trionfi.com/0/p/28/ ]

This one is plausibly dated to c. 1500, but might be as early as 1480 or later.
The Strambotto poem's list might be even older than the list of the Franciscan preacher in "Sermones de Ludo cum aliis", which has 22 cards and 22 names ...

Primus dicitur El bagatella (et est omnium inferior). 2, Imperatrix. 3, Imperator. 4, La papessa (O miseri quod negat Christiana fides). 5, El papa (O pontifex cur, &c. qui debet omni sanctitate polere, et isti ribaldi faciunt ipsorum capitaneum). 6, La temperantia. 7, L'amore. 8, Lo caro triumphale (vel mundus parvus). 9, La forteza. 10, La rotta (id est regno, regnavi, sum sine regno). 11, El gobbo. 12, Lo impichato. 13, La morte. 14, El diavolo. 15, La sagitta. 16, La stella. 17, La luna. 18, El sole. 19, Lo angelo. 20, La justicia. 21, El mondo (cioe Dio Padre). 0, El matto sie nulla (nisi velint).

... but the Strambotto poem has only 21 cards and names. Just the Papessa is missing.

Strambotti de triumphi

Miracomãdo aquel angelo pio,
al mõdo al sole alla luna & lostello
alla saetta & aquel diauol rio
la morte el traditore el vechiarello
la rota el caro & guistitia di dio
forteza & temperanza & amor bello
al Papa Imperatore & Imperatrice
al bagatello al matto più felice.(9)

Some analyses lead to this list

21-20 angelo ----- Minchiate: 40 Angel
20-19 mõdo ------ Minchiate: 39 Mondo-World
19-18 sole ------- Minchiate: 38 Sun
18-17 luna ------- Minchiate: 37 Moon
17-16 lostello --- Minchiate: 36 Star
16-15 saetta ---- Minchiate: 15 Tower
15-14 diauol ----- Minchiate: 14 Devil
14-13 morte ----- Minchiate: 13 Death
13-12 traditore -- Minchiate: 12 Hanging Man
12-11 vechiarello Minchiate: 11 Hermit, old man
11-10 rota ------- Minchiate: 10 Wheel
10-9 caro -------- Minchiate: 9 Chariot
9-8 guistitia ------ Minchiate: 8 Justice
8-7 forteza ------- Minchiate: 7 Strength
7-6 temperanza -- Minchiate: 6 Temperance
6-5 amor ---------- Minchiate: 5 Love
5-4 Papa ---------- Minchiate: 4 Eastern Emperor (special figure, NOT POPE)
4-3 Imperatore -- Minchiate: 3 Western Emperor (special figure, NOT EMPEROR)
3-2 Imperiatrice - Minchiate: 2 Grand duke (special figure, NOT EMPRESS)

1-1 bagatello ---- Minchiate: 1 Magician
0-0 matto -------- Minchiate: 0 Fool

Here we make the observation, that the Strambotti poem likely referred to a trump list known in Florence or Tuscany, cause the similarities to Minchiate are relative strong.

Now we have - in contrast to most expectations of earlier Tarot history, which favored Milan, Ferrara or Bologna as locations of the invention of the Trionfi decks - since recently (the many works of Franco Pratesi in 2012/13 ... see http://trionfi.com/franco-pratesi ) the perspective, that Florence had an important role in this process, confirmed by a flood of new documents (inclusive the first Trionfi document of 1440).

When one once could state, that Nuremberg had 38 noted card makers in 15th century (according the list of Schreiber, at which Nuemberg's 38 looked like a European record), one now can state, that Florence had more than that already in the period 1400-1465.

From Rome we have long custom registers about import of playing cards (between them Trionfi decks) in the period 1453-1465 and likely the most of these were "from Florence".
Esch report ... http://trionfi.com/n/130902/

One of Franco Pratesi's new articles reflects the Rosenwald Tarocchi and 3 different extant sheets of it.
The text considers as a "suspicion", that the Rosenwald Tarocchi might have been an early Minchiate deck, or better said, the result of an optimized 4-woodcuts-system, which could produce cheap decks with 48-96 cards, so that it could satisfy different wishes, normal playing cards, Trionfi cards and also Minchiate decks.
The text is complex. The interesting part is here, that the Rosenwald Tarocchi contained a Papessa ... and possibly had been a very early Florentine deck before the Strambotti poem.


A. 21 trumps, 3 Queens


B. 3 x 2-9


C. 1 x 2-9 (cups), 4 Aces + 12 courts (no Queens)

The assumed 4th sheet for the series (missing) would have been ...
D. 1 Queen (batons), 4 x 10s, 19 missing Minchiate cards

How to use it?

For a 48 cards deck: sheets B + C (without Queens and 10s)

For a 69 cards Trionfi deck: sheets A + B + C (throw away queens from 72 cards). Remaining are 48 normal cards + 21 trumps

For a 96 cards Minchiate deck: sheets A + B + C + D
All Minchiate cards, but Fool + Magician are merged to one motif:


The table on the card is usually attribute to the Magician, the Fool's cap usually attribute to the Fool. Michael J.Hurst once detected two similar figures in "children of the planets"-pictures, which we used with some artistic changes together with the Minchiate-Fool-Magician as a sort of logo for the Franco Patresi articles.


These additional pictures are from the 1460s, as far I remember. Also from the 1460s (1466, 1469/70, 1477) are the first notes of the Minchiate game, which in comparison to Trionfi card notes are rare (for 15th century we know only these 3).
Also in the 1460s ... a possible price revolution for the "cheapest Trionfi decks":

In 1442 we have a relative cheap deck bought for the 2 boys at the Ferrara court, both about 9-11 years old. The price is about a half Lira, which should be about 1 Lira= 20 soldi
in Florentine currency at this time. The price is c. 1/8 of the value paid by Leonello before.

A Trionfi deck sold in Florence by the silk dealers (with many Trionfi documents) takes 25 soldi in 1445. The cheapest normal decks costs 1-2 soldi.
In 1449 the silk dealer buy Trionfi decks for 11 soldi (likely they would sell for 12 ?). In the period 1450-1460 the silk dealer buy for a usual lowest price 9 soldi (only in 2 cases lower than that).
In the custom lists of Rome appear lower prices for Trionfi decks and it appears as if decks become a little cheaper generally (though there's some insecurity cause of the different currencies, and from the condition, that the custom officials had difficulties to estimate the true value of decks). Then in 1463 the low price revolution ... "20 doz. triunfi picholi", estimated on 2 1/2 ducats.

"doz." means "dozen", so we have here 12x20 = 240 decks, "small trumps". The Rosenwald Tarocchi might be such a "deck with small trumps" and "very humble quality". If we assume the ducat as 4-5 Florentine Lira, we get 2.5 x 80 or 100 soldi. We get, that one of these "triunfi picholi" has been fallen to the lowest price category of playing cards of c. 1 Soldi.

"Minchiate" never appeared as a name in the Roman custom registers, possibly the word wasn't known and they did run under the same expression "triunfi".

So ... there are lot of "suspicions" just about this time of the early 1460s. Well, the 1463 document might have a reading error or another mistake in calculation. But generally there was expected, that the high-class product "Trionfi" did fall once to normal use and low-price-level.
But a little bit it looks, as if "Minchiate" had something to do with this specific development.

Back to the Rosenwald Tarocchi: It might be, that the curious Roman numbers were just handwritten, and not part of the print. Obviously there was an error with the "VIII" (which appears twice) and perhaps the writer stopped to proceed and decided, that this sheet shouldn't be used (so perhaps the reason, why this damaged sheet survived as sheet, possibly as book binding material). If one follows just the sequence given at the sheet itself (from left top on to right and below) we get ...

21-20 Angel
20-19 World
19-18 Sun
18-17 Moon
17-16 Star
16-15 Tower
15-14 Devil
14-13 Death
13-12 Wheel ... Minchiate: Hanging Man
12-11 Hanging Man ... Minchiate: Hermit
11-10 Hermit ... Minchiate: Wheel

10-9 Chariot
9-8 Strength ... Minchiate: Justice
8-7 Justice ... Minchiate: Strength

7-6 Temperance
6-5 Love
5-4 Pope ... Minchiate: Eastern Emperor
4-3 Emperor ... Minchiate: Western Emperor
3-2 Empress ... Minchiate: Grand duke
2-1 Papessa ... Minchiate: Magician

1-0 Fool

... a row rather similar to the later Minchiate-row, though one has to note, that the Strambotto-row is closer to the Minchiate-row.
Perhaps one can conclude from this condition, that this Rosenwald Tarocchi order should be older than the Strambotto order (naturally only under the condition, that the row on the woodcut block of the Rosenwald Tarocchi was really relevant and not confused by stupid errors of the engraver).

Following the 5x14-theory, I assume, that (likely) in the period 1440-1460 the major models for Trionfi decks had 14 or 16 motifs only, possibly in different Italian states or cities even different motifs.
Florence exported cards ... which means, that they wanted to deliver cards, which the inhabitants of other cities accepted. One successful way for export in different locations would be to increase the number of the trump pictures, so that a possible foreign buyer
could throw those cards away, which they didn't use in his region and keep those, which he preferred. Naturally this strategy would be only interesting for very cheap decks.


Papessa is gone.


Fool with children, new


Man with table: Magician, new, with children

Minchiate decks

Fool (Charles VI deck)

... also (likely) from Florence, also with children


For the Rosenwald Fool-Magician:

Michael J. Hurst posted the both above mentioned relevant pictures in 2010 ...



... and showed the large "children of the Moon" picture in a composed picture in a red circle ...


Full picture at ...
... used in the article ...


Michael commented the both pictures with "Children of Luna, Florentine, c.1465, Baccio Baldini?" and "Children of Luna, Florentine, c.1464, Baccio Baldini?"

The full series of one of the pictures is given in this article:

The British Museum gives some commentaries ...
DescriptionMoon; the goddess in the sky identified by an inscription: 'LUNA' riding a chariot drawn by two women; the wheel of the chariot decorated with a crab, sign of the zodiac Cancer; below activities influenced by the goddess (eg. fishing, hunting); in the centre, on a pillar, a clock inscribed with the hours of the day and a bridge on which some villagers transport sacks on the back of two mules to a mill. c.1464.


Curator's comments:
The print belongs to the so-called 'original' series of 'Planets', a group of engravings created probably around 1460 in a style called by Hind 'Fine Manner'. For this group see the entry for Hind A.III.1a (1845-8-25-474).

Well, that's rather precisely the same location (Baldini worked in Florence) and time (1464), which were suggested for a "possibly early Rosenwald Tarocchi".


I found the other picture, too ...