hist-games: Jacopo Marcello/Early Tarot Cards

SeaanMcAy at aol.com SeaanMcAy at aol.com
Thu Sep 4 22:15:37 PDT 1997

   I finally sat down and dug into my references to look up Jacopo Marcello.
 He is not mentioned in "A Wicked Pack of Cards" at all, and only in two
places in the "The Game of Tarot".  There is a footnote on page 33, and I
think some of it is worth quoting:

   In 1449 a wealthy Venetian, Jacopo Antonio Marcello, sent as a present to
Queen Isabelle, the first wife of King Rene I, Duke of Lorraine, a set of
sixteen picture cards that had originally been painted by Michelino da
Besozzo at the order of Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan, who died in
1447.  The set was divided into four groups of four cards each, representing
Virtue, Virginity, Riches and Pleasure; each card depicted a suitable
classical divinity.  The pack has disappeared, but Marcello's covering letter
has survived, giving a description of the pack and saying the it had been
painted by Michelino (--quoted text omitted--).  The use of the word "ludus"
shows presumably, that this set was really intended to be used to play some
kind of game.  See P. Durrieu, 'Michelino da Besozzo', "Memoires de
l'Institut national de France, Academie des Inscriptions", vol 38, part 2,
1911, pp 365-93;  (--etc.--)

   The cards mentioned above are of interest on a slightly tangent subject.
 There is a theory that Tarot cards (as we know them now) were the joining of
two separate decks.  The first deck is the 52/56 card deck that we are
familiar with.  The second type of deck is supposed to a 22 card deck
composed of trumps (triumphi or trionfi) and the Fool (mattos).  This was
proposed by Robert Steele and Gertrude Moakley (author of "The Tarot Cards
Painted by Bonifacio Bembo for the Visconti-Sforza Family").  The idea is
that this gift of 16 "standalone" cards  are evidence of the second type of
deck.  Dummett spends some time talking about the theory and shows why he
thinks it's mistaken (pages 81-84).

Michael McKay   (known in the SCA as Seaan McAy)
mckay_michael at tandem.com  or  seaanmcay at aol.com

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