/ Andy's Playing Cards - page VII - The Tarots Of Ferrara - part 4
DISCLAIMER
the content of these galleries is a private property
neither the text nor the pictures may be republished, nor used for any purpose, without the author's permission


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

THE TAROTS OF FERRARA
back to the
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 4 ·

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 are only visible in an enlargement



THE TRUMP CARDS   (continued)
The cosmologic subjects, i.e. the Star, the Moon and the Sun, form a mini-series of three cards that share the same pictorial composition. The background of the subject is divided into three parts, or sectors: the upper one is the sky, above the horizon (curiously curved, as if viewed through a fish-eye lens), featuring the heavenly body to which the trump is dedicated, while the lower part is the ground, with grass and flowers. The allegorical personages stand in the foreground, partly covering both the bottom and the central part. In the CVI cards, the ones with a better state of preservation, the three sectors are very well marked by their different colours: the sky is painted in shades of blue, the grass in green with small flowers, and the central part is golden (gold leaf), with a hammered texture on it. The colours of the EE cards now look much dimmer than what they used to be in their best days, but are basically the same as in the CVI.
CVI ~ the Moon and the Sun
EE ~ the Star, the Moon and the Sun
In the CVI and in the EE, while the personages of the first two subjects are astronomers, who observe and study the sky with their compasses, the allegory chosen for the third card, the Sun, is surprisingly different, and seems to lack a connection with the main subject. In the EE we find philosopher Diogenes who, according to tradition, dwelt in a barrel; instead the same card from the CVI features a woman standing with a long spindle in her hands.

Besides the CVI, the icon of the woman with the spindle has also been used in the north of France (see the Tarot of Jacques Viéville, page IX,
part 2), where it decorated the Moon card.
The Dick sheets provide a third different version of trump no.XVIII: a huge sun whose face looks downwards, shedding its very long rays upon the fields, where trees grow. Despite the lack of a human personage, among the three aforesaid ways of representing the Sun, this one is the closest to the iconography of group C tarots.

In Ferrara, Judgement shared a common iconography with tarots of group C, featuring the well-known scene of the resurrection of the dead. An interesting detail in the version from the CVI is the presence of a double angel playing the trumpet (reminiscent of the double Cupid in Love); also the number of personages brought back to life, seven, is indeed greater than in most other versions.

Dick sheets ~ the Sun and Judgement
In the Dick sheets, instead, according to a more naive taste of this tarot, the corpses are featured as tiny and rather funny-looking skeletons, awakened by the trumpet of a large, single angel.

CVI ~ Judgement and Justice
Also Justice follows a very traditional iconography: this virtue is presented as a female figure with scales in one hand an a sword in the other. In the CVI card, behind her head is the same dark polygonal halo also worn by the other two virtues, Temperance and Fortitude.
The very high rank of this trump, included among the superhuman subjects, apparently alludes to a much higher concept of Justice than mere law administration; however, we should not forget that illuminated tarots were made for the same few people who held judicial power in their hands, often exerting it in a dispotical or whimsical way. Therefore, provided that the aforesaid interpretation is correct, the meaning of this subject should have remained rather veiled, not to appear as an open criticism addressed to the same owner of the deck.


Dick sheets ~ Justice and the World
The last numbered subject, the World, is based on a common interpretation, that all tarot groups shared in the 15th century.

the World from AS and CVI

Inscribed in a circle, as if seen through a crystal ball, an ideal city is either held by an angel (Dick sheets), or on its top part balances a female figure (illuminated tarots AS, CVI) or a cherub (EE). In the AS and the CVI, the attitude of the personage is so similar - note the identical position of the whole body - that it may have likely been inspired by a common model. A similar analogy between the same two tarots, concerning the Old Man, had already been described.
The round view in the AS, instead, seems to have more mountains and rocks than the other two. Pesaro, the city whose lord was Alessandro Sforza, is in fact located in a more hilly area that Ferrara's surroundings; the views featured in the World card may reflect the natural features of the place where the tarot was painted.

EE ~ the World


from the left: detail of the World from AS, CVI and EE

Interestingly, the same iconography for the World is also found in the early tarots of group C (particularly those of the Visconti group); but at the beginning of the 16th century this interpretation was replaced by the female figure enclosed in an almond-shaped frame, with the symbols of the four Evangelists in the corners, typical of the Tarot of Marseilles.
In Bologna, instead, it changed into a small Mercury standing on a circle divided into quarters, i.e. a reminiscence of the original 'city' (see page II).

The Fool is a subject whose common interpretation is shared by all three tarot groups. In the CVI he is an adult with a childish attitude (playing with the large beads of a kind of rosary), wearing an idiotic grin on his face, while in the EE he looks completely unaware of what happens around him. Two common details, probably peculiar to tarot group B, are the hood he wears, with donkey ears, and the children or young pages who tease him. In the CVI they pick up stones for throwing them at him, while in the EE they play with his exposed genitals (the personage wears nothing but the hood).
the Fool from CVI and EE
In both cases the children are elegantly dressed, as to stress the fool's nudity (in the CVI he is not completely naked, but only wears briefs).
The Fool is in fact man deprived of his social status (and teased for this), stripped of the superstructures which grant him a certain rank among other humans (e.g. money, clothes, power, nobility, etc.); but under this primitive condition his mind can roam, free from binds.
detail of the Fool's face

CVI ~ children pick up stones in the Fool
This can be read as a metaphoric praise of man's natural quest for truth and goodness, claimed by the humanistic movement (which developed in Italy in the second half of the 1300s, and greatly inspired the game of tarot). Humanism emphasized man's uniqueness, making him the measure of all things in nature. This explains why in tarot games the Fool card is usually given a dual interpretation: alone, it has no value (i.e. the materialistic reading of this allegory, in terms of social ranking), but when challenging another trump its tremendous power makes it prevail upon any subject, including the World (i.e. man as the center of the Universe).




THE SUIT CARDS
The suit cards still extant from the four illuminated decks are rather few, but enough to tell that the structure was the same as in other known tarots, i.e. pip cards running from 1 to 10, and four courts featuring a knave, a cavalier, a queen and a king.
The pip cards are reminiscent of the ones belonging to the Pierpont-Morgan Visconti tarot, i.e. with a white background decorated with flowers.
Also the shape of the pips in the suits of Swords and Coins is consistent with the aforesaid tarot, including the use of a generic pattern for the coins, not based of the real local currency.
knave of Cups and king of Swords from the AS,
the only surviving courts of this tarot

the shape of Cups
in Ferrara tarots
Instead Batons are featured as tapered maces, i.e. with a thin handle and a thicker head. Also the Cups differ from those of the Visconti tarots, as the shape of their upper part is less rounded, and the notches along the shaft are two, whereas the Cups in the Visconti tarots have only one.
Unfortunately only a single ace has survived, namely the ace of Cups from the AS. Another ace, of Swords, is the subject of one spare card in a group of four, held by the Correr Museum in Venice; they are very similar to the ones belonging to the AS, thus clearly coming from a fifth illuminated tarot whose other subjects went lost. The ace features a straight sword pointing upwards, whose blade crosses a crown, in the same fashion as the one still found in the Bergamasche and Bresciane pattern.

EE ~ knave and cavalier of Batons, cavalier of Swords, queen of Cups and king of Coins

The court cards were made using the same technique as the one used for the trumps, i.e. a gold hammered leaf for the upper half of the background and for some details, while the rest of the illustration is painted.

Seeking for curious details among the extant courts, the cavalier of Swords from the EE (above, in central position) runs with his horse over the body of a dead enemy. But the most interesting ones are probably the suit cards of the RS, whose number is much greater than the surviving subjects from other decks.
All the courts of the Rothschild tarot feature a distinctive detail above the personage's head: a decorated arch in a typical late medieval fashion, unique among the illuminated tarots known, yet found in the Dick sheets (over kings and queens only, and over the three trumps featuring virtues) and in the Rosenwald sheets (over some of the trumps), as previously mentioned in part III. Its purpose is merely decorative.

CVI ~ the knave of Swords,
only surviving court card
It has also been mentioned that two leading scholars in the field of tarot history, S.Kaplan and M.Dummett, disagree about the interpretation of two subjects from the RS (left): what Kaplan sees as the Emperor and the king of Coins, is believed by Dummett to be, respectively, the king of Coins and the knave of the same suit.
RS ~ knave and king of Coins,
or king of Coins and the Emperor?
The presence of the aforesaid arch above both personages is consistent with the latter interpretation; although in this case the knave would appear as a middle-aged man, wearing a whitish beard, this is not a unique feature: in fact, a similar one is found in the so-called Italy 2 cards (after their catalogue number in the Fournier Museum of Alava, Spain), an archaic Latin-suited pattern of Moorish inspiration, surely earlier than the RS by several decades, which testifies the existance of bearded knaves at an early stage of Western playing card history.

Among the courts of the Rothschild Tarot, interesting subjects are also the knaves and the cavaliers of each suit. Unlike the personages featured in other decks, whose formal and rather static attitude is almost reminiscent of a model posing for a painter, the two lower courts of the RS appear much more lively, depicted in unusual attitudes, as if their dynamic action had been frozen by a photographic camera. Particularly curious is the only extant card of the RS not held by the Louvre Museum in Paris, i.e. the cavalier of Swords (below, far right), in which the horseman bends completely forward, lifting his shield, up to the point that his head and a part of his shoulders are no longer visible.

more courts from the RS: knave, cavalier and queen of Batons, and cavalier of Swords

Shields are a further interesting detail of the RS: they are carried by the cavalier of Swords, and by the queen and king of Batons. They do not bear heraldic devices, as in other illuminated tarots, as their surface is made of polygonal sections in relief, not too different from the texture of a tortoise shell. The one carried by the cavalier of Swords has a central crease, which divides its surface into two halves. This particular shape, and the position it is held in, are both very similar to the shield carried by the Moorish cavalier of Swords in the aforesaid Italy 2 deck.


go to
PART 1 PART 2 PART 3

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

or back to
Introduction
INTRODUCTION
AND HISTORY

Multi-language Glossary
MULTI-LANGUAGE
GLOSSARY
the Fool and the Joker
THE FOOL &
THE JOKER
Index Table
INDEX
TABLE
Regional Games
REGIONAL
GAMES
Playing Card Links
PLAYING CARD
LINKS






1