Michelino da Besozzo

- the most expensive artist of his time painted the first Tarot (Trionfi) deck

The first known Trionfi deck was done by the cooperation of 3 persons: Marziano da Tortona, Michelino da Besozzo and Filippo Maria Visconti.

Filippo Maria gave the money and the idea, Marziano wrote an accompanying text book and probably coordinated the work, Michelino painted.

Michelino da Besozzo (ca. 1370 - ca. 1450) was occasionally called the best artist of his time (so Uberto Decembrio, father of Pier Candid; 1404 by Fabricca of Milan Cathedral, by Johannes Alcherius 1410 in Venzia, by Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo in 16th century) so surely not a very cheap playing card painter. Very good information about his life gives Storia di Milano in Italian language. From the informations given Michelino was absent from Milano 1404 till 1417, so the deck was probably not painted before this time. As Marziano, who wrote the accompanying manuscript, was surely alive in 1423 and was surely dead in 1st of February 1425, the cards should have been done in this range of time.
Michelino worked on an Funeral Eulogy and Genealogy of Giangaleazzo Visconti in 1403, which is remarkable, as the gods in the playing card deck are considered partly as "ancestors " of the Visconti family.

Probably this earlier commission had some influence on the cards deck.

Pictures online:

Biographical Study, added by Janet Sue Randall

Michelino da Besozzo (also Michelino de Molinari): Was described by numerous writers as the being one of the greatest, if not _the_ greatest, artist of his time. The humanist Umberto Decembrio and his son, Pier Candido, both praised Michelino's skill. Michelino was considered Milan's greatest early master by Lomazzo. Considered to be a founder of the Milanese school of art, he was most notable for his skill for naturalistic portrayals of animals and birds. Michelino was most probably trained at an early age in the workshop of Giovanni de' Grassi, a manuscript illuminator, sculptor and architect who was employed by Giangaleazzo Visconti II. Michelino's style of illuminated initials and the scale and layout of his foliate borders appear to indicate a direct relationship between Michelino in his early career and Pietro da Pavia, an Augustinian friar. There are comparisons of the style of Michelino with that of Stefano da Verona (Stefano da Zevio), the son of Jean d'Arbois, whose patron from 1373 to 1375 was Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. There is supposition that d'Arbois may have been in Pavia in 1385. The possibility of Jean d'Arbois' presence in Pavia at this time combined with the similarities in the styles of Michelino and Stefano results in further speculation that both of these artists may have trained with d'Arbois. The consistency of Michelino's style throughout his career causes difficulty in dating works attributed to him where no corresponding documentation exists to verify a date. Also problematic is the fact that many attributions of works to Michelino are not universally accepted and are often disputed. Such difficulty seems to arise due to his influence on artists of his time and the ease with which the fundamental components of Michelino's style can be utilized by other artists and . The prayerbook (New York, Pierpont Morgan Lib. MS. M. 944) is attributed without dispute to Michelino, although the dating of the work varies from the first to fourth decade of the 15th century. Also attributed to Michelino is the Mystic Marriage of St Catherine panel with the signature "Michelinus fecit." The Crucifixion in the Chapel of the Eremo near Crevenna is one of the few surviving examples of Michelino's wall painting.

circa 1368 - Michelino probably born around this time.

1385 - Giangaleazzo Visconti takes over Milan.

1386 - The work on the Cathedral of Milan begins. The immensity of this project causes an influx to the Visconti holdings of numerous artists from such places as France, Germany and the Netherlands.

1388 - payment to 'Michelino pictore' for painting scenes from the Life of St. Augustine in the second cloister of the Augustinian convent of S. Pietro in Ciel d'Oro, Pavia.

1394 - panel by Michelino in S. Mustiola, Pavia - no longer surviving.

1396 - manuscript of St. Augustine's _Commentary on the Psalms_ (Rome, Vatican, Bib. Apostolica, MS. Vat. lat. 451) with illumination attributed to Michelino. This work was probably done for Marco Gallina, Augustinian professor of theology at Pavia University 1403 - illumination attributed to Michelino for _Funeral Eulogy and Genealogy of Giangaleazzo Visconti_ (Paris, Bib. N., MS. lat. 5888).

1403 - Michelino works on the Visconti genealogy (note: autorbis)

1404 - Fabbrica of Milan Cathedral consults Michelino 1404-1418 - There is no documentation of Michelino's presences in either Pavia or Milan, causing speculation that Michelino may have left Lombardy altogether, possibly due to the instability of the area during the rule of Giovanno Maria Visconti (1402-1414). (According to storia di Milano Michelino left Milan from 1404 - 1417; note autorbis))

1410 - Michelino is in Venice and gives a recipe for ultramarine to Johannes Alcherius. Projects in S. Marco and the Doge's Palace were underway in Venice and had attracted such artists from norhern and central Italy as Gentile da Fabriano and Pisanello. It is possible that Michelino may have moved to Venice at this time as well. In support of the possibility of Michelino's presence in Venice, there are the damaged fresco decoration in the tombs of Giovanni Thiene and Marco Thiene in S. Corona, Vicenza. Also, Michelino was responsible for some of the illumination of the _Epistles of St. Jerome_ (London, BL, Egerton MS. 3266). An additional index of this manuscript gives the date of 1414 and it is likely that the work was produced in Venice.

1417 - Michelino returns to Milan ; Storia di Milano

1418 - payment to Michelino for ornamentation done on the marble boss of the vault behind the high altar for the Cathedral in Milan. From this point on, entries in the Fabbrica accounts place Michelino in Milan. Michelino is recorded in these accounts as a master in glass, and was engaged not only in supervising the work of others but also in designing and exectuing work in glass himself.

1421 - payment for the pictorial decoration of the altar dedicated to SS Quirico and Giullita.

1424/1425 - Our suspected date for the production of the Michelino deck (note: autorbis)

1425 - payment for 24 panels of glass for the window next to the altar dedicated to SS Quiric and Guilitta. Six trefoils and half-length Prophets in window 15, south transept of the Milan Cathedral remain from the work done by Michelino, although heavily restored, and represent his only surviving documented work in glass.

1428 - record of a house rented by Michelino close to the Castello Visconteo.

1429 - Michelino painted a standard - not documented in Cathedral accounts.

1439 - Michelino painted a Crucifix - not documented in Cathedral accounts.

1441 - More work in stained glass for the Cathedral in Milan.

1445 - Michelino painted frescoes for the palace of the Borromeo family. This is his last documented activity. Around 1450 probably dead.

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- related to the Michelino Deck

1424/1425 - Michelino Deck 1447 / ca. 1470 - Decembrio Manuscript 1449 - Marcello's letter Great Condottieri (1424) Great Foes (1424) Filippo Maria's wifes The French Side, the great Context