Scipio Caraffa

In his letter Iacopo Antonio Marcello mentions Scipio Caraffa, who visits the soldiers camp in the Milanese wars (probably spring 1449) and suggests to send a pack of cards, which by Marcello is identified as Trionfi cards, to Isabella, queen of Lorraine. At this occasion it seems clear, that Scipio Caraffa doesn't know this type of deck. The identity of Scipio Caraffa was unknown till recently (March 2004). Ross Gregory Caldwell found the following:

From a history of Charles VII, one reference - December 1446

"At this time, the King (Charles VII) had a friendly relationship with the Doge of Venice, and received at his court Scipio Carafa, ambassador of the Fairest Republic, then at war with Milan."

The text continues -

"Charles, Duke of Orléans, as the heir of Valentine Visconti, raised legitimate pretensions on the rulership of Asti in Piedmont and on the principality of Milan. On December 27 1446, Charles VII signed a new treaty of alliance with Milan. The following year, the succession of the Duchy was opened by the death of Filippo Maria. Thereupon Charles VII supported the attempts that his cousin of Orléans made in Italy, but in vain."

[M. Vallet de Viriville, "Histoire de Charles VII, Roi de France, et de son époque 1403-1461" t. III p. 127], (sources given, 3 manuscript, 3 printed).

In a short biography to pope Paul IV. (1555 - 1559) at an internet page:, who originated from a family "Caraffa near Naples", the actions of this pope are summarised by an internet page: "The first of the true Counter-Reformation popes" (Cowie). He had previously been Caraffa who ran the Inquisition. He became pope aged 79. He was an extreme conservative but very energetic for his age. He cut Papal expenditure; ordered bishops back to their sees, put all of Erasmus?s books on to the Index; expelled travelling entertainers from Rome and forbade hunting and dancing. Paul IV hated Spain because of Spain?s Habsburgs links and he felt that the pope could never fully be free until the power of the emperor was checked. In 1 555 he re-started the Italian Wars in an effort to broaden his powers but this was to be in vain. His death in 1559 was greeted with jubilation in Rome.

It seems likely, that Scipio Caraffa descended from the same or a related Naples-family as the later pope, which would make him with some probability somehow involved in the Aragonese victory in Naples 1442 - a similar career like that of Giovanni Cossa, who became a messenger for Marcello in November 1449. Giovanni Cossa became a sort of ambassador in the interests of Rene d'Anjou, Scipio Caraffa seems to have become ambassador at the French court in the interests of Venetia. Both are natural partners of Marcello, who has special diplomatic functions for the Venetian republic to Francesco Sforza and Rene Anjou. Some Caraffa families could be found by internet research, one single Scipione Caraffa lives around the right time and is the illegitime son of a better known father:

Carafello (+ ca. 1458 ?), armato Cavaliere ante 1417, Barone di Sessola alla morte del fratello Luigi Antonio, Patrizio Napoletano, ebbe 4 onze anuali sui fiscali di Sant?Elpidio il 22-10-1422 (privilegio confermato il 23-7-1445), investito del feudo della Manza a Malta e della tonnara di Bonalia a Trapani nel 1430, Consigliere e Maggiordomo del Re Alfonso V. d'Aragona, castellano di Agrigento nel 1434, Governatore e capitano a guerra nella Campagna Romana nel 1443, ambasciatore e plenipotenziario a Genova nel 1444 e insignito del titolo ?Conservatore della Pace? nel medesimo anno dal Doge di Genova, Giustiziere delle terre di Montecassino nel 1444, ambasciatore a Roma nel 1447, compra il feudo di Sant Arpino nel 1451 (Capitano a vita dal 1-7-1452, confermato nel 1456), castellano di Castelcaprino nel 1453. The better known father seems to have been on the Aragonese side, perhaps the less well known destiny of the son "Scipione" indicates his service in foreign countries.

The conflict Aragon/Anjou started in old times in 1268 with Charles of Anjou becoming King of Naples and Sicily, finishing the reignment of the Hohenstaufern. In 1284 in a dramatical event called "Sicilian Vesper" the power in Sicily was turned in favor of Pietro d'Aragon. The enduring conflict was alive in many phases of 15th century, occasionaly sleepy, occasionally in open fight. Rene d'Anjou took part since 1434 (declared heir) till 1442 (Alfonso wins), then again in 1453 (short Rene d'Anjou-campain with Francesco Sforza) and in 1459 - 1462 (Ferrante stabilizes as heir of Alfonso). The Anjou interests were taken by the French king Charles VIII. (see the biography of Giovanni Cossa, in which the story is told, how Louis XI. became heir of Rene d'Anjou) in 1494, who entered Italy with a 90.000-men-army and ended the peaceful and creative phase of Italian renaissance, in which - beside many other artistic objects - also Trionfi-cards found development.

For playing card history it's of interest, that Scipio Caraffa, a man probably with insider knowledge of "everyday life" around Naples (till 1442; ?) and Venetia and the French court isn't aware of the existence of Trionfi cards in this special moment of time (after Filippo's death in 1447 till 1449) - which signals "no great distribution" of this type of deck just then.

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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