As the 12 Olympic gods together with the 13th (Hercules) present a standard, the other 3 of the 16 gods might be considered, that they tell us the real story of the deck or something about the background or the central idea of this piece of art.
There is one figure in the deck, which is no god and that is Daphne. She is the most astonishing person between all the other 16, because one wouldn't expect her to be in this circle of almost important figures of Greek mythology.
She is by this the secretly hidden and dominating figure.
She was only known from one myth and that was an object to the late myth-teller Ovid, who with his “Metamorphoses” took a strong influence on the medieval time and early renaissance. In this myth he tells from a father, Peneo, which is a god of a river, from Apollo and Amor-Eros-Cupido – any Eolus or Aiolus is missing . Here is an abstract of the myth:
Since Apollo made fun of Eros Cupido (= Amor), the God of Love hit him with a golden arrow to make him fall in love with Daphne. And he hit her with a lead arrow to make her insensible to love. Daphne, persecuted by Apollo, tried to escape his love by taking refuge near the river of her father Peneo. When Apollo was about to capture Daphne, Peneo, awaken by the cry of his daughter, transformed her into a laurel tree. Forever after, Apollo would wear a branch of laurel (the Greek word daphne means laurel).
(Take the opportunity and read the passage in English here and, if you like, the complete Ovid text in Latin on a very nice site with 1400 pictures here, it shows various pictures, how Daphne starts to become a tree.)
A god of a river - if painted - might have been easily mistaken as Aiolus, the god of the winds. Or - other possibility - an unknown river-god Peneo was felt as being too unattractive, the better known Aiolos was used to replace him - medieval thinkers had their own logic and there are extant many examples of the "freedom of art".
Please follow mentally the following imagination: Perhaps there was a bookpainting:
12 gods surrounding (Hercules included, to replace Apoll, who takes an active part in the myth), as one knows it, in the middle on top a flying cupido, in the main scene and center Daphne transforming in a laurel and Apollo (excluded) and the river father at left and the right, both watching the scene with astonishment and grieve.
Perhaps the 12 gods were different, standing or sitting in an upper or lower row and in a greater way painted in the front, Daphne half-tree-half-woman with her 3 accompanying partners.
There are many idas, how such a (only prognosted) book-painting could have looked like.
Perhaps it is lost, perhaps it never has been … and there was just the funny idea of Filippo to hide the story in a card-play. Actually it doesn't matter too much, if the imagination started in the head of an earlier painter or in the head of Filippo Visconti. There is a basic truth: All pictures start in the imagination ... and this deck also.
As weve heard it from Marcello, the idea to the deck was from Filippo Visconti (Marcello actually cant be counted as a witness of that operation more than 30 years ago) and he was known as an inventer (as Marcello declares). But with all these unsecurities, probably Marcello is right with his opinion. Filippo Maria decided the final issue, influences might have come in the year 1424 from the Greek Emperor John Palaiologos or Carlo Malatesta with his Greek relations and his Greek interests. (autorbis)