|A new document was detected in March 2003, perhaps relating to the first appearance of a 5x14-deck with 14 "Trionfi" (figure) as a 5th suit. It might cause a revolution in playing card research.
In our studies around the 5x14-theory Ross Gregory Caldwell discovered
in March 2003 a strange entry in the Ferrarese account books: At the 1st
of January of 1441 the painter Sagramoro got money for having
painted "14 figure" (14 figures) on a special paper (which was also in
use for the production of playing cards), which were intended for an
unspecified use at a "party at night" for the guest Bianca Maria
Visconti, 15-years-old single daughter of the duke of Milano Filippo
Maria Visconti, who is well known for his interests in the production of
unusual playing-card decks.
The entry alarmed us. "14" was the "right" number, and we were searching for better evidence for the 5x14-theory .... however, in the entry an expression like "playing cards" or "ludus triumphorum" or "Trionfi" was missing. What was the object, for which Sagramoro was paid? What paintings could be of use for a "party at night"?
Our research did begin ...
What's so alarming in this entry?
However, any term, which indicates directly "Trionfi" or other playing
cards, is missing. This was annoying, but ...
- The location is right: Ferrara is suspected as one of the possible locations for the origin of Tarotcards, the first note about Trionfi cards appears here.
- The time is right: 1st of January 1441, this entry (1441)
is short before the other entry, in which "Trionfi" (1442) is noted for
the first time.
- The time of the year is right. Winter was the natural time for playing (long nights, nothing to do on the outside) and specific the day of 1st of January seems to have a day for games (reported from a German city, so not necessarily true for Ferrara).
- The painter is right: Sagramoro is later the painter for the first mentioned Trionfi decks in February 1442.
- The commissioner is right, probably Leonello. He is later also
the commissioner of the first 4 Trionfi decks.
- The receiver is right. Bianca Maria is the daughter of the Milanese duke Filippo Maria Visconti, and Filippo is variously connected to early Trionfi cards. Additional to that Bianca Maria is later involved in the production of the Bembo cards, which are produced in Cremona and that is "her" city.
- The term "figure" is right. It is later used also in the Trionfi document of 1442.
- The "party at night" is right. Playing cards are for amusement.
- Last - but not least, the number is right: 14. Ferrara is the location, where 16 years later, in 1457 another alarming document appears, in which it turns out, that a Trionfi-deck might consist of 70 cards - not of 78, as the theory of an "original deck with 22 trumps" would demand it.
Well, the missing of the term "Trionfi " is not surprizing or
illogical. A deck can exist without having a specific name, in many
other examples first an invention is done and the name to the object is
given later. As the name of "Trionfi" in relation to a playing card deck
first appears in February 1442 (as far as we know) the missing of the
name in January 1441 doesn't mean a contradiction. It might just
indicate, that that, what is produced in January 1441 has the character
of an invention ... The Invention of Tarot? No, only the invention
of the 5x14-deck including 14 "special figures", just that, what later
became the major Trionfi-version for a longer time, perhaps already
intended to play the role of a 5th predefined trump-suit.
Is the missing of the words "playing cards" a contradiction? No, not
really. If it really was an "innovative situation" at that evening of
1st of January 1441 or around that time, then perhaps Sagramoro
only made projecting paintings, just being on their way to become Tarot
cards later. Or the words "playing cards" are just not written ...
perhaps, cause these "14 figure" had been strange playing cards, until
then unknown objects, so it was near to the writer in the account book
to speak of "14 figure" instead of "playing cards".
Why "14 figure", why not 70 cards? The Este had already playing cards of the usual kind, they only needed to add 14 Trionfi cards to update an already existing deck.
Why just Bianca Maria Visconti? The situation is logical ... As one of possibly not many persons just Bianca Maria "must" have known the playing cards experiments of her father, at least the Michelino deck, which was produced before 1425. We don't know the date of the Cary-Yale Tarocchi, perhaps it did already exist or it didn't exist.
In the case, that Bianca Maria - a 15 years-old-girl in her first situation of a public appearance at a foreign court as an honoured guest - told in her communications at the Ferrarese court of the interesting decks of her father, this might have induced her host, Leonello (in this special case - an interesting political situation - a possible husband-in-spe), to please the guest with a production of his own in the same field, intended as "a present for the guest" or as a "sign of love" or similar.
We researched the case, turning any stone, that we did see around the date and the location, Ferrara 1441 ...Our results you can visit here, still a little unfinished, as it is a situation "in research".
A final security, if the 5x14-deck was just invented at this occasion,
was not possible to reach - but, we're rather near to a rather good
story. "Leonello invented the 5x14-deck cause of love to Bianca Maria",
or "three young girls designed the early Tarot", this are possible
conclusions ... but, of course, not with 100 % security, just
ideas to settle the various informations into a shape.
Anyway, an interesting object ...
Texts of the chapter Ferrara 1441: autorbis, Ross Gregory Caldwell, Mari Hoshizaki, texts occasionally are done in cooperation. Text and contents
are occasionally based upon discussions in the group LTarot and its members. Alain Bougearel, Christine Payne-Towler, Ray Luberti contributed.
Lay-Out composed by Dieter Maas / autorbis.