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Single Card ca. 1490: The Ship

The single card was presented with a short article at an internet-site from the Musée national du Moyen Âge Paris together with a short article, that informed, that the card was dated to the time "about 1490".

Ross Caldwell could add further informations:

This card was the subject of an article by Pierre-Yves Le Pogam in "The Playing Card", vol. 33 no. 1 (July-Sept 2004), pp. 27-38, entitled "Entre tarot et jeux de cour: une carte à jouer italienne" (Between Tarot Cards and Courtly Games: An Italian Playing Card) Here is the Summary in English (the author is unknown) - "The card presented here was purchased by the Musée national du Moyen Âge (National Museum of the Middle-Ages, also known as the Musée du Cluny), in Paris in 1996. It was to take place in a large collection of game-related objects that are kept in the museum. By its shape, size, material and construction, this card is close to the earliest tarot cards known, as they were designed in some Italian courts of the mid-15th century. However, the card shows features that have nothing to do with the tarot trumps, since it offers a(n)unusual representation: the picture of a ship. One might think of a rare element found in the specific tarot variant which appeared in Florence - the so-called minchiate - but we know of no example from such an early date. (personal note: The use of the word Minchiate as a card game is known since 1466, but examples of the cards are missing). It more probably is the only remains of a category of games which were influenced by the tarot, of which very few copies exist nowadays and for which we essentially rely on literary evidence. We know of such games played in the princely courts of Northern and Central Italy, as for example the so-called "Mantegna Tarots" (which are neither tarot cards nor Mantegna's works), one of the few games that survive with the "tarot" cards of Matteo Maria Boiardo. These party games either were aimed at developing their users' classical education and at filling them with humanistic ideals in an educational and spiritual perspective (like again the "Mantegna Tarots", as well as various games mentioned in a Florentine inventory), or they more simply corresponded to the advancement of the courtier's spirit, through the identification of the players with the cards, by riddles, forfeits, various mind games, etc. The card we present may have belonged to such games, since it has a second outstanding feature: the picture of a ship is associated with a Latin sentence, namely a famous verse by Horace, "Odi profanum volgus et arceo" (Odes, Bk. iii, 1, 1), which translates as : "I hate secular vulgarity and go away from it". This motto must be understood in connection with the ship: according to the iconographic and symbolic codes of the Italian Quattrocento (the representation illustrates the verse, the verse explains the picture), they are respectively the "body" and the "soul" of the picture. Finally, this caption more generally reflects the milieu where it originated. This sentence remarkably fits the humanistic, slightly pedantic – and somewhat contempuous... - atmosphere of the the princely courts of the Northern and Central Italy." The article nowhere mentions the date "1490", and only suggests that "... the representation is not specific enough to permit a datation or provenance more specific than Central or Northern Italy in the second half of the Quattrocento..." (p. 29).

Ross Caldwell