Xiiii - Lemperance


The apparent mis-spelling of the title of this card is in fact taken from the 1650 Noblet version. When read quickly, it even suggests a relation to IIII - LEMPEREVR.

Many aspects of this card are fascinating. Firstly, of course, the figure is clearly winged in nearly all Marseilles versions of this card, suggesting not an incarnated human being, but either an angel or, if taking the sequence of the previous cards into consideration, of the winged Spirit of the person having passed the gates of Death.

Temperance, unlike iconographic representations of its opposite intemperance, the latter of which often shows a women in the process of emptying a jug into her own body (by drinking it), is shown in the process of allowing the fluids of one jug or urn to flow into another - some have viewed this as indicating or suggesting the re-incarnation process of soul qualities from one physical vessel to the next.

The pouring from one vessel to another also suggests a mixing of the contents of both, for even if one was 'empty' prior to this process, the inflow would be oxygenated by the gaseous content which previously filled it. One assumes, however, that there is a mixing of two fluids. As red and blue are usually prominent, this may very well be water and blood.

For me, the alchemical implications inherent in this card, and the 'proper' mix required for each consideration or action is indicated.

It is also worthwhile considering what is implied in the verb 'to temper'.

Attached is the (restored) 1650 Noblet version.


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Thanks for posting about one of my favorite majors.
I was trying to find my link to the Temperance statue at Chartres, circa 1300, but only got to this one, circa 1650's:

gallery.euroweb.hu/ html/s/sarrazin/

TDM cards remind me of romanesque churches and Giotto images...Giotto did a stoic Temperance in his church art.
I enjoy the art, so thank you very much.
Mari H.


Thank you for that wonderful and useful euroweb gallery link you give.

I haven't been to Chartres for over two years, but spent much of my pre-adolescent life not far away from there. Still, I just cannot recall the representation of Temperance you refer to, and would very much like to see a copy. If anyone else comes across it, please post it.

From memory, Giotto's Temperance does not use urns from which fluid flow, but rather she holds a sword against her body in her left hand, face down (please correct me if I'm mistaken, as I do not have access to my reference books). The flowing of the fluids from either one urn to another, or at least out from one is more common, and, in my opinion, has a very satisfying iconographic symbology.

Temperance, being one of the four Cardinal virutes, also, thus, harkens back to Ancient Greece. I've attached a 15th century detail from Perugino.


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Alas, I've given up finding the Chartres image link that shows Temperance...but a good listing of Giotto's seven virtues to combat the seven vices is below:

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc/math5.geometry/unit8/unit8.html#seven virtues and seven vices
If this doesn't work, I believe a better detail of Giotto's work is also at Euroweb and the link below. The sword is definitely there!

For Chartres, I see text listings of the four cardinal virtues---I thinking it might be the South Portal, West transept. But with all the detail suggests about 400 sculptures at Chartres. And I am hoping that it isn't a misnaming of the depictions of the Seven Liberal Arts statues...does anyone pick up a reference that suggests that Temperance might be a detail in a stained glass window at Chartres?
Happy looking!
Mari H.


Diana, you raise really important questions, which are well worth having varied discussions over.

With regards to whether 'LEMPERANCE' ever became 'TEMPERANCE', I'm not sure that there is such a change. As you mention, the title used with the card omits the definite article ('the'). However, I have also wondered whether 'LEMPERANCE' is in fact a condensing (and mispelling, which frequently occured) of 'La tEMPERANCE'.

With regards to the the four cardinal virtues, Fortitude, also called Force and Strength, is there: XI La Force! Only Prudence/Wisdom appears missing. Many, of course, consider VIIII L'Ermite to be a representation of Prudence.

With reference to a comment that you make in XIII relating Death's stance and its similarity to the Fool's, I have at times been struck by the similarity of stance between XIIII Temperance and I The Magician - both in their bodily inclinations, and the form of their arms (the difference, of course, being that whereas with XIIII the left arm is bent down, it is bent upwards with I.

I've attached the (1998) Camoin version of this deck. As with the Dodal, the 'snake' at the hem is prominent.


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Very interesting points you both mention, jmd and Diana. I did some Old French during my studies but I cannot recall a word like Lemperance so I think it is a misspelling such as jmd suggested.

What about seeing prudence in the Latin word Prudentia/Wisdom and relating it to the Pope/Hierophant card?


Though the four cardinal virtues are, in modern French, called courage, justice, prudence and tempérance, they arise from ancient Greek writings. When contemplating these (in the Greek), courage and fortitude/strength are equivalent, as are prudence/wisdom/'right' life.

During late mediaeval times, or even early renaissance, it may be that the words were used to reflect not only one, but numerous considerations of the virtues. We tend to be more defined and restrictive in our deliberations.

But as you say, Diana, it is worth considering that each given part of the card is significantly there.

In the case of Temperance, however, 'Lemperance' may very well represent a spelling 'mistake'. It may be that the carver began by carving 'LATEMPERANCE', and as (s/)he had just, and only, finished the image and the 'L', was told by the Master Crafts(wo/)man that there would not be the space for the whole word. Rather than starting a new woodblock, (s/)he may have either decided or been told to continue, treating the 'L' as though it was the 'T' of 'Temperance'.

It should also be noted that spelling was not as standardised as it now is (and even we have our own Aus/UK/Can/Ind/US variations!).

Other spelling variations, or in some cases possible mistakes, include the numerous decks which use the spelling 'Limperatrise' (eg, Paiche), 'Le Jujement' and 'Tenperance' (Madgne), and the astounding 'Atrempance' (for Temperance, on both the Jar and the Dupont). These can all be found in volume 2 of Kaplan's Encyclopedia of Tarot.

Taking the point mentioned by Diana again, it may be that these variations were dropped on Marseilles decks as they did not reflect the integrity of the impulse pictorially represented. Hence 'Temperance' without the definite article 'the', became standard - its significance worthy of investigation.

It should be mentioned, again, that 'significance' isn't solely the province of that which emerges from either historical or psychological considerations, but also spiritual, imaginative and semiotic ones.

Attached is the 1701 Dodal version - unusual in its representation.


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One of the other common representation of Temperance, found on some early decks, is of what appears to be a woman pouring from a jug, from her right hand, into another on the ground directly below it. In her left is what at times appears to be a wand or sword, but to me clearly depicts an ear of corn: ie, Spica of Virgo!

I do not, unfortunately, have an electronic copy of such representation, but will attempt to scan one over the next two weeks.

In the meantime, attached is the 1930s (Marteau) Grimaud version.