Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta (active 1440 and 1452)
composed by Lothar Teikemeier, last update 06.12.2012

Dates of Trionfi card activities

  • 1440-09-16 Malatesta gets Trionfi deck from Giusto Giusti (4.5 Ducats)
  • 1452-10-28 Letter from Cichus (Simonetta) to Antonio Trecco about a deck of Trionfi cards for Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta
  • 1452-November (?) Malatesta asks Bianca Maria Visconti for Trionfi deck from Cremona


Sources are taken from Franco Pratesi's new article series written from November 2011 till now, published here at and from our old collection at and from recent researches.

SOURCE 1: 1440 Giusto Giusti / Malatesta Malatesta

in work
SOURCE 2: Francesco Sforza orders Trionfi deck for Malatesta - document of 1452

My note (2012) and the letter was presented by Emilio Motta, "Altri documenti per la libreria sforzesca", Il Bibliofilo, X (1889), pp. 107-111

My note (2012)

Ross Caldwell found recently in Emilio Motta's work the following letter from "Cichus" (= Francesco Simonetta, in 1452 secretary of Francesco Sforza and writing in the name of Francesco Sforza) to Antonio Trecco, treasurer. Both persons appear also in the Francesco Sforza Trionfi documents of December 1450 in a similar adminstrative function. The letter relates to a Trionfi card deck for Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta and was written at October 28 in the year 1452.
Francesco Sforza was in this time at a fortress in Calvisano (about 30 km in Southern direction from Brescia) and rather objectively he was just engaged in the war against Venice, which broke out in the mid of the year 1452. For the following November 1452 three battles are recorded in Manerbio, Asola and Gottolengo, all in the range of 12-20 km from Calvisano. Calvisano belonged to Sforza and Milan since 1451, but it was given back to the control of Venice after the peace of Lodi 1454. Sforza's many letters from Calvisano between October 22 and November 14 make assume, that Sforza used the small town as his provisional war capital for 3 weeks.

One day after the letter, which relates to the Trionfi cards, at October 29, Sforza wrote indeed to Sigismondo Malatesta, but this letter didn't note the Trionfi deck. But it might be speculated, that this message was transported together with a small parcel, which contained the Trionfi cards, especially as Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta was addressed rather seldom in the given letter collection.

Calvisano and the 3 battles locations

SOURCE 3: Pizzagalli report to November 1452

Quotes mainly from the earlier Trionfi notes collection of (2003-07): Document 08 [old counting]. Naturally these older texts present not in all points my opinion of nowadays.
The new text here might contain some corrections against the earlier versions.

Document 08 [old counting]

Sigismondo Malatesta writes in 1452 to Bianca Maria Visconti and shows interest at the Trionfi production in Cremona. This circumstance could be interpreted in two ways: Either the Trionfi painter school in Cremona (probably Bonifacio Bembo and his workshop) is especially famous for their production of Trionfi or - second possibility - Malatesta is at the time, when he wrote the letter, in a region, where he has not much opportunity to get any Trionfi cards. And the second possibility would probably mean, that the distribution channels for Trionfi cards aren't very well organised in 1452, probably due to the condition, that Trionfi still is a rather new game. Sigismondo Malatesta

1452 [November – Sigismondo Malatesta requests cards of Bianca Maria Visconti Sforza, recounted by Daniela Pizzagalli]:

"Gran parte del suo [Bianca Maria's] tempo era anche occupato dalla corrispondenza, perché aveva contatti personali con tutte le corti. Intratteneva carteggi paralleli spesso ricchi di argomenti che esulavano dalla politica: significativa, ad esempio, la richiesta che ricevette da Sigismondo Malatesta, nel novembre 1452, di un mazzo dale famose carte da trionfi miniate, vanto dell'artigianato cremonese…. Di far realizzare un mazzo di carte per il Malatesta, Bianca Maria non aveva affatto voglia, anzi temeva di non saper mascherare abbastanza la sua invincibile ostilità contro di lui, tanto che, quando Francesco ordino personalmente i tarocchi a Cremona, lei, ringraziando per averle `levato questa fatica dalla mano' gli sottopose il testo della risposta a Sigismondo autorizzando il marito ad apportarvi modifiche."

[Pizzagalli 1988:129]

Preliminary translation
(by Ross Gregory Caldwell)

A large part of her time was also occupied in written correspondence, she having personal contact with the whole court. At the same time she maintained correspondence rich in subjects outside of politics: shown, for example, in the request which she received from Sigismondo Malatesta, in November 1452, for a pack of the famous hand-painted trump cards from the highly praised artisans of Cremona … Bianca Maria did not have the slightest desire to have a deck of cards made for Malatesta, on the contrary she feared of not knowing how to disguise enough her undying hostility for him, so much that when Francesco personally ordered the tarocchi at Cremona, she thanked him for “lifting this burden off my hands”, in the text of her response to Sigismondo, authorizing her husband to make modifications.

Repeated Note:

When Ross Caldwell and me in 2003 started to collect Trionfi notes between 1442-1463, we had about 27/28 entries (which I nowadays would count as 31). The major part were the documents of Ferrara, which were collected by Gherardo Ortalli and Adriano Franceschini in the "Prince and the Playing Cards" (1996), after the base laying works of Michael Dummett and Stuart Kaplan around 1980. This collection included 2 notes about Trionfi cards in Florence, found by Franco Pratesi in his earlier work (allowances of the Trionfi game in 1450 and 1463). A graphical representation of this time (with 27 entries) shows the dominance of Ferrarese documents (in black) with a few notes only from other locations (in red; see picture to the right)

In the period 2004 till October 2011 it was possible to add 4 further notes (Siena 1452, Padova 1455, Ancona c. 1460 and Valerio Marcello c. 1460), mainly thanks to information given by Thierry Depaulis.

Franco Pratesi started his new article series in November 2011. Since then the list has gotten 67 new documents till September 2012 (65 of them found by Franco Pratesi, one, now the oldest of September 1440, by Thierry Depaulis, and another one by Veber Gulinelli, who controlled the earlier work of Franceschini and found an overlooked document) and nearly all are related to Florence or its surrounding.

A small book (118 pages) was published around Christmas 2012, Franco Pratesi: "Playing Card Trade in 15th Century Florence" as IPCS Paper No. 7 (ISSN 0305-2133). It contains some of the articles, which before had appeared at this website, those, which treat the early time of 15th century. Thierry Depaulis commented in his foreword: "This book is a landmark in the history of early playing cards in Italy".

Well, maybe not the book, but the research is clearly a landmark in various interests. For the collection of early Trionfi notes it somehow means, that we have within the year 2012 about 200 % more data for the period 1440-1462 than mankind had collected in the 200 years before.

Added later:

In August 2013 the new report of Arnold und Doris Esch: "Aus der Frühgeschichte der Spielkarte. Der Import von carte da giocare und trionfi nach Rom." in Gutenberg Jahrbuch 2013, 88. Jahrgang, p. 41-53, arrived in our redaction. It contains 106 new references to Trionfi decks, which all were found in the customs registers of the city Rome for the period 1453-1465. With this the number of all earlier Trionfi cards records has been doubled and should have reached then c. 210 (from which a few are only considered to be "Trionfi card notes" and don't contain the word "Trionfi" or something similar).


I'd started to sort the new Trionfi card documents overview in October 2012. Articles will be possibly changed according improvements in research.

Old Overview about Trionfi Card documents in 2003

Overview about Trionfi Card documents in 2013


Persons in Trionfi Card Documents 1440-1462
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