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GALLERY INDEX
~~ Gallery 5 ~~
The Tarot and other Early Cards
· page VII ·

THE TAROTS OF FERRARA
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GALLERY INDEX


other pages

page I
classic
tarots
page II
regional
tarots
page III
trump card
arrangements
page IV
modern &
non-standard
page V
theMulûk
wa-Nuwwâb
page VI
the Visconti
Tarots
page VIII
the tarot
of Marseille
page IX
the Tarot
de Paris
page X
Viéville's
Tarot
page XI
the
Minchiate
page XII
Mitelli's
Tarocchino
page XIII
Mantegna's
Tarot
page XIV
the
Hofjagdspiel
page XV
the
Hofämsterspiel
page XVI
the deck by
Jost Amman
page XVII
the Italy 2
Moorish deck


· part 3 ·

NOTE
in this page the samples from the Dick sheets are shown larger than others
because since the quality of their print is not as good as the painted illustrations
of the illuminated tarots, several details can only be seen in an enlargement



THE TRUMPS
Ferrara tarots had 22 trumps, in this being consistent with the number found in all main patterns (Dummett's A, B, C, or southern, eastern and western). However, as far as illuminated tarots are concerned, a direct comparison is only possible between groups B and C, i.e. the ones made in the areas of Ferrara and Milan, respectively; the tarot decks referred to the environment of Bologna (type A) apparently were never made in luxury editions, but only in 'economy' version, i.e. printed and stencil-coloured, to be sold to the common public. Most of the subjects in Ferrara tarots were basically the same ones found in the decks of the Visconti group, but the allegorical representation of some of them was slightly different, and so was some of their names, and their ranking.
In Ferrara tarots, the name of the subject was not spelt on the cards; the illuminated decks, i.e. the earliest ones made, did not even feature numbers on the trumps. The full series and its ordering could be compiled thanks to some historical sources in which the names of the courts are mentioned, and thanks to the so-called Dick sheets, whose trumps instead feature roman numerals.
The following table compares the trump series of Ferrara tarots with the one from the tarots once used in Milan, the same group that includes the famous Tarot of Marseille.


I
II
III
IIII
V
VI
VII
VIII
VIIII
X
XI
XII
XIII
XIIII
XV
XVI
XVII
XVIII
XVIIII
XX
XXI
(no number)
 FERRARA 
the Conjurer
the Empress
the Emperor
the Popess
the Pope
Temperance
Love ~ the Lover
the Chariot
Fortitude
the Wheel of Fortune
the Old Man ~ Time
the Traitor
Death
the Devil
Fire ~ Lightning
the Star
the Moon
the Sun
the Angel ~ Judgement
Justice
the World
the Fool
 MILAN - MARSEILLE 
the Conjurer
the Popess
the Empress
the Emperor
the Pope
the Lovers
the Chariot
Justice
the Hermit
the Wheel of Fortune
Fortitude
the Hanged Man
Death
Temperance
the Devil
the Tower
the Star
the Moon
the Sun
Judgement
the World
the Fool

detail from a Dick sheet:
(top) queen of Swords and
the Old Man a.k.a. Time (XI)
(bottom) Justice (XX) and the World

Among the mismatches, the most noticeable one appears to be the different ranking of the three virtue cards (Temperance, Fortitude and Justice) in the tarot of Ferrara. In particular, Temperance is set back by eight positions, while Justice is given a particularly high rank, twelve position ahead of the one belonging to group C tarots, the highest position but one among the set of trumps, i.e. only second to the World.

However, the ranking used by each of the three tarot groups should be discussed individually, as there is no evidence that one of them sprang from another, or was created at an earlier stage. So, for instance, by saying that Ferrara's Justice is rather high, this does not mean that the natural position of this subject should be VIII, as it would be in the Tarot of Marseille, simply because most of the editions printed nowadays follow this scheme.

Comparing the names, instead, most of the 'unusual' subjects that are not found in the column on the right, such as the Old Man, the Traitor, etc., are in common with the tarot of Bologna, although their ranking order in groups B and A is different (see page III for a full list); this, however, shows that groups B and A, i.e. Ferrara and Bologna, are more closely connected than group C is with either of the other two.

The trump cards still extant are rather few, with the only exception of the series belonging to the Tarot of Charles VI (sixteen subjects). No subject has survived in all four tarots, and only nos.VI (Temperance) and XXI (the World) can be found in three tarots out of four.
Therefore, a systematic review of all the subjects is not easy; especially the ones for which a comparison is no longer possible, having survived as single specimens, should be taken into consideration keeping in mind that different ways of depicting the same subject were not infrequent, even among tarots of the same group (the two Temperance cards shown on the right are an example).
Some of the trumps missing in all the aforesaid illuminated decks, such as the Popess, the Empress, the Wheel of Fortune, and others, can still be investigated thanks to the Dick sheets, described in part 1.
la diversa iconografia de
la Temperanza nel AS e nel CVI


EE ~ the Conjurer
The first subject of the series, the Conjurer, besides the main personage (a public performer of tricks) always features one or more additional figures acting as an audience. This apparently insignificant detail, though never found in tarots of group C, enhances the metaphoric meaning of this card, i.e. 'man's lowest possible moral level', as not only he who performs the tricks, but also those who indulge in such trivial activity by simply watching it share the same condition.

Two the Emperor cards are extant, namely from the CVI and the RS, and in both of them two small younger figures either stand or kneel by the main personage, whereas only in the Cary-Yale tarot, i.e. one of the earliest known in group C, the Emperor is accompanied by a couple of pages.

left: the Emperor from the CVI;
right: the debated subject from the RS
Furthermore, none of the two specimens features a shield with an eagle, the device of the Holy Roman Emperor; such eagle is commonly found in the corresponding subject belonging to tarots of group C.
Interestingly, the Emperor card from RS is the object of a debate between two leading experts in the field of tarots, Stuart Kaplan and Michael Dummett. Only the former believes this card to be a trump, as the latter considers it the king of Coins, after the large coin held in his left hand.
In favour of Kaplan's theory are the two small 'additional' figures (which the king of Batons of the same tarot does not have), and the coin held by the main personage, also found in the same subject from the CVI, as if this represented a further peculiar attribute of the Emperor in Ferrara tarots.
In favour of Dummett's theory, instead, is the decorated arch, a part of which is seen in the top part of the illustration: all the seated courts (i.e. queens and kings) of this tarot have a similar one, likely representing a small canopy that covers the throne, or simply a distinctive detail that marks the two highest ranks of each suit. The Rothschild Tarot is the only one among the four illuminated tarots that features this detail. Instead, it can be found in the Dick sheets, above the heads of all kings and queens, but also above three trump subjects, namely namely the three virtues, but not above the Emperor, whose top fragment can still be identified. Also some trumps in the Rosenwald sheet feature a similar detail, but not the court cards.

Kaplan and Dummett also disagree about the number of extant cards belonging to the same Rotschild Tarot, the former considering only eight cards as part of this deck, versus the thirty-two described by the latter.
The main reason of such discrepancy is the slightly different size of some of the cards rejected by Kaplan: differences vary according to the subjects, although they remain within 3-4 cm, and an accurate measurement of the cards is also rather difficult, due to the curved surface of some of them. Dummett, instead, grounds his attribution criteria on the graphic style of the illustrations and on the texture of the border that frames the subjects (see part 1 for a comparison). Some other scholars have tried to conciliate the two positions by suggesting that the mismatching cards may have been added to the original deck some time later, as replacements for lost or damaged subjects; this could explain the slightly mismatching size, despite the graphic features are perfectly consistent with the original cards of the deck.
the Pope, from CVI and EE

Two small additional figures, in a fashion similar to the ones described in the Emperor, are also found on either side of the Pope of the CVI (above left), but they are not present in the same card of the EE. Dressed as cardinals, i.e. direct subordinates of the main personage, they form a triad, simmetrical to the one of the Emperor card.


detail of the pope's head, from CVI and EE
Note that in the CVI the pontiff does not wear a beard, unlike the one found in the EE and in most other tarots known, of either group; evidently, who painted the CVI knew what the actual pope in Rome looked like: in fact, during the 1400s none of the popes wore a beard, as can be told by paintings and etchings. Looking at the personage more in detail, his facial features do not even look generic, as if the author of the tarot had tried to portray an actual pontiff.
Due to the small size of the figure, and to the complete lack of any symbol or family device that may provide a clue for the identification, the attempt to give this personage a name by comparing the card with portrays of 15th century popes would yield rather unreliable results.

Trump no.VI is Temperance, whose iconography is based on the traditional female figure pouring water from one vessel into another; but in AS she is surprisingly sitting on the back of a deer, completely naked (previously shown). The symbolic meaning of such an unusual attitude remains obscure.

The card called Love (VII), known as the Lovers in group C, has only survived in the CVI; in the scene it features, not one but three couples dressed in elegant clothes gaily proceed below two arrow-shooting Cupids.

EE ~ Temperance

CVI ~ Love
A fragment of one of the Dick sheets, though, seems to feature the well-known iconography of this subject, with one Cupid above, and a single couple of lovers below, whose only unusual detail is that the female figure has just been hit by a love dart. Here the number 'VIII' shows that this tarot follows a ranking scheme in which Love is higher than the Chariot, as mentioned in page III (see ARCHAIC ORDERINGS for details).

Dick sheet ~ fragment of Love;
note the personages' fancy hair-do

Despite the aforesaid ordering of the Dick sheets, in Ferrara's tradition the Chariot is more often the eighth subject. The card of the AS, the oldest of the four illuminated tarots, is not able yet to convey well its metaphoric meaning of 'triumph, victory', after which the whole series of trump cards was probably named (see page I); the vehicle looks rather bare, without any sign of celebration, and the driver stands inside, partly covered. No glamour nor magnificence seeps from this iconography: more than a victorious general, the personage looks like a generic charioteer. The leg of a footman, wearing red tights, can be seen on the right, just before the horse.
Instead, the subject's traditional meaning is expressed in a much better way by the card in the CVI, whose personage poses as if he was being hailed by a crowd, holding an axe, standing high above an elegant chariot decorated with crests and covered with a red embroidered drape. Note also how the horses are disproportioned, much smaller than the size they should be, not to let the viewer's attention be distracted from the central figure.
A triumphal scene is even more clearly expressed in the subject found along one side of the Dick sheets, although only half of the card is left: a winged figure (Victory?) balances on a globe set atop a decorated chariot, surrounded by personages riding the same vehicle. Between the horse and the frame of the illustration, some unclear details, maybe a folded arm with a long sleeve, may belong to a footman (as in AS).
left: Dick sheet,
fragment of
the Chariot;

right: the same subject
from the AS and CVI

In Ferrara tarots, Force or Fortitude is expressed as a female figure posing next to a broken column.

CVI ~ Force (Fortitude)
Although only the specimen belonging to the CVI is left, the presence of a similar feature also in the tarot of Bologna's iconograhy, strongly suggests that this way of representing the virtue was likely common in the whole area concerning groups A and B. The meaning of the allegory is 'principles stronger than stone'; the latter is the material out of which a column (i.e. a typical symbol of resistance and endurance) is usually made, thus underlining the moral value of this virtue; Force has nothing to do with physical strength, a wrong interpretation of this virtue, which the club-wielding male allegory in the Pierpont-Morgan Visconti tarot seems to follow (see page VI, part 3).

The Wheel of Fortune has only survived as one of the uncut subjects of the Dick sheets, therefore we can only suppose that the same design may have been shared also by illuminated decks. It is consistent with the traditional allegory of group C, with the only difference that the personages facing the ups and downs of human life are four.

Dick sheet ~ the Wheel of Fortune
In group C too they used to be four (see the Visconti tarots, page VI, part 2 and part 3), but then the 16th century development dropped the one at the bottom. Also the words spoken by the personages in the Dick sheets, rendered by means of banners, coincide with the ones found in the Pierpont-Morgan Visconti tarot: REGNABO ("I shall reign") says the figure on the right, coming upwards; REGNO ("I reign") says the one on top; REGNAVI ("I reigned") says the descending one; SINE R[EGN]O ("without a reign") says the one that lies below. The Pierpont-Morgan Visconti tarot is probably the only one in which the Wheel of Fortune turns in clockwise direction, whereas in any other tarot known (i.e. including the ones made in Ferrara) the direction is anti-clockwise.
In the subject from the CVI, only the personage yet to reach the top and the one already above the wheel look like animals; the other two have regular human bodies. This scheme is not the author's whim, as it conveys a meaning: craving for power can turn man into a beast.

Trump no.XI, the Old Man, is very similar to the equivalent subject in group C, i.e. the Hermit. The only mismatching part between the two is the hourglass that Ferrara tarot's personage holds in one hand; for this reason, he is also referred to as Time. In the other group, this object developed into a lantern, likely due to its mistaken shape.
This shows how important symbols are in tarot illustrations; an apparently insignificant detail can cause the whole subject to change its name. Allegorical personages, being entirely fictional, have no visual identity of their own: they express themselves only by means of conventional attributes, i.e. allusive clothes, objects, animals etc. which according to a metaphoric language act almost as a 'label'. If the attribute changes, sometimes by mistake, also the personage turns into another, losing its original identity.
the Old Man from the AS and CVI
are almost identical

Better known as the Hanged Man, the subject no.XII, dangling head down, tied to a scaffold, is called the Traitor in both Ferrara and Bologna tarots; this name probably refers to the guilt of the personage, which caused him to be hung in this way.

CVI ~ the Traitor
The iconography seems identical to that of group C, both in the CVI (on the left) and in the Dick sheets (a narrow fragment, only featuring the left stump of the scaffold, yet enough to guess the rest of the illustration).
An interesting detail of the CVI card are the bags held in each hand by the young man. They are not tied to his wrists, and his fingers are clearly clutching them willingly, as if their contents, likely coins, was worth the further sacrifice of holding an extra weight, despite the very uncomfortable position (a metaphor of greed?).

Trump no.XIII, Death also in Ferrara tarots, is featured as a skeleton mounted on horseback, that wields a scythe.

CVI ~ Death
This subject is still extant in the CVI and is fully visible in the Dick sheets. The same attitude is found in the tarot of Bologna (group A), and is still printed today.

Dick sheet ~ the Devil
The card belonging to the illuminated deck is more ornate and colourful, and the ground below the horse is scattered with the corpses of high personalities (a pope and two cardinals, arranged in a very similar position as in the fourth trump), meaning that death strikes impartially.

Sadly, the Devil trump went lost in all four major tarots, but it survived in the Dick sheets. The main discrepancy with the tarots of group C is the presence of one or more additional faces along the body of the demon: usually it had one on the belly, and sometimes others on the chest, on the main joints, etc., according to an iconography often used in the Middle Ages, shared by tarots of groups B and A (i.e. Ferrara and Bologna). Instead it never featured more than one personage, such as the small chained demons often found in tarots of group C.

Subject no.XV is probably the one with the most controversial name among the set of trumps. In Ferrara it was called either Fire or Lightning, whereas tarots of group C use a different name, the Tower (subject no.XVI, one rank ahead), and in the Tarot of Marseille it is also known as the House of God, but other names such as the House of the Devil, the House of the Damned and the House of Pluto are also known from literary sources (see page III).
However, in all cases the subject appears rather similar, with the only exception of some editions designed in French-speaking areas (see the Tarot de Paris and the Tarot of Viéville). A mighty tower is stricken by a thunderbolt, that sets fire to it, sometimes causing it to crumble, as in the CVI; in tarots made in Ferrara (and in Bologna too) no dwellers tumble to the ground, as commonly found in group C. Another slight difference is that the building has a square section instead of a round one. Curiously, in Bologna (group A) the shape of the building is square, very similar to the one from CIV, but it is called the Tower, and shares with group C also the sixteenth rank.
In the Dick sheets this subject is printed upside-down; in old tarots a similar mistake was not too infrequent, but it more often concerned the Traitor (or Hanged Man, in group C); this suggests that some craftsmen in charge for the making of the printing plates of tarot decks, had difficulty in understanding some of the subjects they were working on, up to the point of carving them the wrong way round. Since in the Dick sheets the card's roman numeral too is upside down, i.e. consistent with the burning tower, the clumsy craftsman may have likely copied the subject from a model.

CVI ~ Lightning (Fire)

The allegorical meaning of this trump has already been discussed in page I, and likely applies to all tarots; but despite the almost identical design, regardless of the three groups, different details of the scene were focused, giving reason for the mismatching names. In Ferrara, greater attention was payed to the thunderbolt or to its consequences; elsewhere, the stricken building was the most important feature. In metaphoric terms, Ferrara's card means 'God's rage', i.e. the punishment, while the one found in other groups means 'man's pride', i.e. the guilt, as if looking at the same scene, but from two opposite standpoints. Nevertheless, the ranking of this subject remained almost the same in all tarot groups.


the last trump subjects are dealt with in PART 4



go to
PART 1 PART 2 PART 4

further reference to tarot decks can be found in Trionfi and in The Hermitage



page I
classic
tarots
page II
regional
tarots
page III
trump card
arrangements
page IV
modern &
non-standard
page V
theMulûk
wa-Nuwwâb
page VI
the Visconti
Tarots
page VIII
the tarot
of Marseille
page IX
the Tarot
de Paris
page X
Viéville's
Tarot
page XI
the
Minchiate
page XII
Mitelli's
Tarocchino
page XIII
Mantegna's
Tarot
page XIV
the
Hofjagdspiel
page XV
the
Hofämsterspiel
page XVI
the deck by
Jost Amman
page XVII
the Italy 2
Moorish deck



OTHER GALLERIES

non-standard patterns advertisement decks sizes, shapes and colours standard pattern variants non-suited cards Mercante in Fiera Uta Karuta, Iroha Karuta, Dôsai Karuta Âs nas
regional patterns: Italy regional patterns: Spain regional patterns: Germany regional patterns: Austria regional patterns: Switzerland regional patterns: France regional patterns: Sweden regional patterns: Portugal regional patterns: China regional patterns: South-Eastern Asia regional patterns: Japan regional patterns: India uncut sheets mottos and proverbs

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INTRODUCTION
AND HISTORY

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THE FOOL &
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INDEX
TABLE
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GAMES
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