The Naples Connection - Alfonso of Aragon

The fight for the Kingdom of Naples between Aragon and Anjou is an old long story, which endured centuries, starting with the beheading of Konradin in 1268 and the Sicilian Vesper at 30th of May in 1282.


In the Trionfi-time: After a short rulership of 7 years under Anjou (1435 - 1442) the house of Aragon got the better part of it. Alfonso of Aragon conquered the city in June 1442, just in a very Tarot relevant time. Alfonso manifested with his success Spanish influence on the Italian peninsula and the long time results were two Spanish (Borgia) Popes in Italy, Calixtus III. and the famous Alexander VI. in 15th century and a general Spanish European dominance in 16th century, especially also in Italy.

Alfonso was very cultivated and enriched the humanistic life of Italy considerably by art and sponsoring. This positive side of him immediately attracted the modern thinking Ferrarese court and the fresh builded diplomatic connection did lead to two important marriages between Naples and Ferrara, one between Leonello himself and an illegitime aughter of Alfonso already in 1444 and a second between Duke Ercole and Eleanora of Aragon in the year 1473, connected to one of the major festivities in late 15th century in Italy.

There are some connections known from Alfonso to card playing, but not to Trionfi cards and also surviving Trionfi cards from this southern Italian region are missing (beside some cards from the castle Ursino with unclear origin). Probably one has to assume, that Naples stayed outside of the early Trionfi card development - Naples is far in the south of Italy, so the distance from the North Italian centers of card production might explain this condition. But Alfonso influenced the Italian festivities, called in singular "Trionfo", and of course some of his relations to other persons inside the Trionfi story are of importance.

Jacob Burckhardt on Alfonso of Aragon:

"The great Alfonso, who reigned in Naples from 1435 onwards (d. 1458), was a man of another kind than his real or alleged descendants. Brilliant in his whole existence, fearless in mixing with his people, dignified and affable in intercourse, admired rather than blamed even for his old man's passion for Lucrezia d'Alagno, he had the one bad quality of extravagance, from which, however, the natural consequence followed. Unscrupulous financiers were long omnipotent at Court, till the bankrupt king robbed them of their spoils; a crusade was preached as a pretext for taxing the clergy; when a great earthquake happened in the Abruzzi, the survivors were compelled to make good the contributions of the dead. By such means Alfonso was able to entertain distinguished guests with unrivalled splendor; he found pleasure in ceaseless expense, even for the benefit of his enemies, and in rewarding literary work knew absolutely no measure. Poggio received 500 pieces of gold for translating Xenophon's 'Cyropaedeia' into Latin. "

"And what can be thought of Frederick III? His journeys to Italy have the air of holiday-trips or pleasure-tours made at the expense of those who wanted him to confirm their prerogatives, or whose vanity is flattered to entertain an emperor. The latter was the case with Alfonso of Naples, who paid 150,000 florins for the honour of an imperial visit. "

"Lionello .... latter had also had a lawful wife, herself an illegitimate daughter of Alfonso I of Naples by an African woman."

"During the Milano-Venetian war of 1451 and 1452, between Francesco Sforza and Jacopo Piccinino, the headquarters of the latter were attended by the scholar Gian Antonio Porcellio dei Pandoni, commissioned by Alfonso of Naples to write a report of the campaign. "

"When the great Alfonso of Naples was (1434) a prisoner of Filippo Maria Visconti, he was able to satisfy his gaoler that the rule of the House of Anjou instead of his own at Naples would make the French masters of Italy; Filippo Maria set him free without ransom and made an alliance with him. A northern prince would scarcely have acted in the same way, certainly not one whose morality in other respects was like that of Visconti."

"Alfonso the Great, on his entrance into Naples (1443), declined the wreath of laurel, which Napoleon did not disdain to wear at his coronation in Notre-Dame. For the rest, Alfonso's procession, which passed by a breach in the wall through the city to the cathedral, was a strange mixture of antique, allegorical, and purely comic elements. The car, drawn by four white horses, on which he sat enthroned, was lofty and covered with gilding; twenty patricians carried the poles of the canopy of cloth of gold which shaded his head. The part of the procession which the Florentines then present in Naples had undertaken was composed of elegant young cavaliers, skillfully brandishing their lances, of a chariot with the figure of Fortune, and of seven Virtues on horseback. The goddess herself, in accordance with the inexorable logic of allegory to which even the painters at that time conformed, wore hair only on the front part of her head, while the back part was bald, and the genius who sat on the lower steps of the car, and who symbolized the fugitive character of fortune, had his feet immersed in a basin of water Then followed, equipped by the same Florentines, a troop of horsemen in the costumes of various nations, dressed as foreign princes and nobles, and then, crowned with laurel and standing above a revolving globe, a Julius Caesar, who explained to the king in Italian verse the meaning of the allegories, and then took his place in the procession. Sixty Florentines, all in purple and scarlet, closed this splendid display of what their home could achieve. Then a band of Catalans advanced on foot, with lay figures of horses fastened on to them before and behind, and engaged in a mock combat with a body of Turks, as though in derision of the Florentine sentimentalism. Last of all came a gigantic tower, the door guarded by an angel with a drawn sword; on it stood four Virtues, who each addressed the king with a song. The rest of the show had nothing specially characteristic about it. "

Castle Nuovo (triumphal arch of Alfonso)

Alfonso of Aragon
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