CY Swords fruit is neither quince nor pomegranate. It's medlar

... and the medlar was a Visconti device. Not Sforza.

(although it was adopted by Sforza years later, along with all the other Visconti devices)

I've just come across a doctoral dissertation written by Reina Gabriele for the University of Lausanne, published in 2018 under the title Le Imprese Araldiche Dei Visconti E Degli Sforza (1277-1535): Storia, Storia Dell'Arte, Repertorio. It can be found here: ... 01/REF.pdf

In this dissertation, Gabriele identifies the fruit depicted on the clothing of the court cards in the Cary Yale suit of Swords as medlars (nespolo in Italian, botanical genus Mespilus germanica). She notes that most previous historians have mistakenly identified them as either pomegranates or quinces, in a "chain of errors continually repeated" (p. 58):
... è significativo ... ravvisare come nelle imprese dei Visconti e degli Sforza appaiano elementi botanici accuratamente descritti da cronisti come il Decembrio, ma confusi con tutt’altro anche da storici dell’arte di valore, dando luogo a una catena di errori continuamente riproposti.
Footnote: Decembrio scrive chiaramente come Filippo Maria Visconti volle la pianta di nespolo nelle proprie insegne; furono questi frutti e fiori che vennero ripetutamente effigiati in dipinti e miniature, ma non v’è studioso che non li abbia confusi con melograni o altro di sua inventiva, con conseguenti elucubrazioni del tutto infondate.
(my translation*:
... it is important ... to recognize how the imprese of the Visconti and the Sforza contain botanical elements which were described accurately by chroniclers such as Decembrio, but which have been mistaken for all kinds of other things even by art historians of merit, giving rise to a chain of errors continually repeated.
Footnote: Decembrio clearly writes how Filippo Maria Visconti wanted the medlar plant in his insignia, and it was the fruits and flowers of that plant which were repeatedly depicted in paintings and miniatures, but there is no scholar who has not confused them with pomegranates or something else of his own imagining, resulting in elaborate concoctions that were completely unfounded. )
* My Italian is rusty and was never terribly fluent in the first place, so I'm relying a lot on things like Google Translate, and

She bases her identification of the Swords impresa as the medlar on the following evidence:

1. She found that two fifteenth-century compendia of Visconti-Sforza insignia (imprese and stemmi) in the Biblioteca Trivulziana in the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, MS. 2168 and MS. 1390, both record insignia that feature medlar fruits, flowers and/or trees.

2. In chapter LXVII of Pier Candido Decembrio's Vita di Filippo Maria Visconti, a biography of the Duke written shortly after his death, there is the following sentence: "Ordinò di salvaguardare i nespoli, in ricordo del frutto entrato a far parte delle insegne viscontee" ("He gave an order to safeguard the medlars, in remembrance of the fruit that had become part of the Visconti insignia") (p. 121-121 in the 1983 edition of the Vita, as quoted by Gabriele on p. 352).

3. She found several examples of the use of this impresa other than the Cary Yale cards, including a wall painting in the Visconti palace in Bernate Ticino (near Milan), and illuminations in two manuscripts made in 1464 and 1465 for Francesco Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti as gifts for Ippolita Maria Sforza: Tabula in librum sancti Augustini De civitate Dei (on a page that displayed a collection of 18 of the family's imprese) and Publii Vergilii Maronis Opera, both now at University of Valencia.

4. The fruits on the Swords cards look exactly like medlars:
cy_queen_of_swords_m_VHMcF.jpg (96.68 KiB) Viewed 7690 times
cy_fantesca_of_sword_AnrgO.jpg (41.56 KiB) Viewed 7690 times
Frankly, the depiction on the cards is so accurate that I think we can take this as proof positive that absolutely none of us on this forum know much about horticulture, because if we did we would have surely identified the damn things correctly at first glance.

(For those who want to examine the cards closely, the best images to use are the high-resolution ones at ... &type=tag
It's quite clear from those images that the fruit were the same medlars on every court card.)

Gabriele reproduces images from MS. 1390 showing the arms of Filippo Maria Visconti and his father Gian Galeazzo surrounded by medlars:
visconti-stemmi-with-medlars-m.jpg (60.61 KiB) Viewed 7690 times
And an example of the medlar impresa from the 1465 Publii Vergilii Maronis Opera manuscript:
visconti_medlar_p_in_uQI9n.jpg (86.37 KiB) Viewed 7690 times
The heraldic medlars really can't be confused with the Sforza heraldic quince, which looked like this:
Note the complete and constant lack of any little spiky things sticking out of the bottom of them.

The medlars in the Swords suit also don't look anything like what pomegranates looked like in the heraldry of the time, which (a) tended to look fairly clearly like pomegranates and definitely not medlars, and (b) generally had the shell slightly open so you could see the grains within, to dispel all doubts. I don't feel I need to link to any heraldic images of them here, because no one has ever been able to come up with any credible evidence anyway to support the assertion that pomegranates were ever an impresa of either the Visconti or Sforza families. Gabriele adds a special note in her dissertation specifically to debunk that misconception (pp. 330-331).

Most of her dissertation is a long list of Visconti and Sforza imprese with a detailed description of each. For the medlar, this includes its physical attributes, its properties and uses, its possible meanings, its (relatively rare) use by the Visconti as a device, and numerous images of it. Her work also lists three other Visconti imprese that she believes could incorporate medlar trees.

Recently Phaeded demonstrated convincingly that the fountain in the Staves suit is not a Sforza device or a Visconti device, and Gabriele essentially agrees: she thinks it must have had some symbolic significance and cannot be merely ornamental, but is not prepared to identify it categorically as an impresa of the family because she could not find any other evidence of its use (p. 290). A user called "Trismegistus" on the Aeclectic forum had a similar experience:
I'm writing a thesis in order to graduate on the field of art history at Leiden university – and have been studying the three decks attributed to Bonifacio Bembo for many years. In Moakley and in Kaplan one reads concerning the Cary-Yale-tarocchi that 'the fountain' as found as a motiv on some of the cards should be considered as a Sforza-device, but I have never actually been able to find it anywhere, except for in the mentioned sources.
In the absence of any better explanation, I'm quite happy to accept Phaeded's theory that it's a Fountain of Love, which, as Phaeded observed, fits well with the cupid's arrows used as the staves on the number cards.

A major implication of all this is that there is no Sforza heraldry in the CY deck at all.

It's all clearly Visconti, with the sole exception of those shields on the Love card showing a white cross on red, which have been attributed to either the house of Savoy (which provided Filippo Maria with his bride Marie in 1428) or Cremona (site of Bianca Maria Visconti's wedding to Francesco Sforza in 1441).

The suggestion that this shield represents Cremona has never seemed very plausible to me, for two reasons:

1. The coat of arms is clearly and repeatedly paired with the Visconti coat of arms in a very prominent manner on an image depicting a wedding. It must therefore surely represent the family of the bride or the groom. Anything else is virtually inconceivable.

2. If the wedding depicted was the one that took place in Cremona in 1441, it would be absolutely extraordinary to place that shield on that card, because even if it was intended to represent Cremona, it would still inevitably call to mind the arms of Savoy, thus reminding all who saw it of Filippo Maria's union with his wife, and thus reminding Bianca Maria personally that she was not the fruit of that union, but rather of illegitimate birth. In something intended as a gift to Bianca Maria on the occasion of her own wedding, this too is inconceivable.

Given the total lack of Sforza heraldry, the attribution to the 1441 wedding—and indeed any suggestion that the deck was intended as a gift to Bianca Maria and/or her husband, on or after their wedding—is now even more impossible than before. We are left with the conclusion that the wedding depicted on the Love card is the wedding of Filippo Maria to Marie of Savoy in 1428.

This would explain why the groom on the Love card has fair hair—like absolutely everyone else in the deck. This would have been very odd if he was meant to be Francesco Sforza, who had typically Italian dark hair. Several of the Visconti seem to have had fair hair, including Filippo Maria and his father. Perhaps it was a source of pride for them, or at least a hallmark of the family, hence its ubiquity in their playing cards.

So when, why, and for whom was this deck made? In a post in 2012, Ross Caldwell said that several art historians date the deck to 1442-1445. That is one reason to conclude that it was not actually made at the time of the wedding in 1428; another reason is that you would expect the heraldry in a wedding deck to represent both houses more or less equally, and that is clearly not the case here. The latter reason would also mean that it can't merely be a direct copy of a deck made for the 1428 wedding either, and one would think it is too lavish to simply be a copy, in any case.

I can think of two possibilities:

1. The Cary Yale deck was made as a gift to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Filippo Maria's wedding to Marie, in 1443. But I'm not sure if Italians gave gifts to celebrate wedding anniversaries at this time; maybe someone else knows more about that. If it was an anniversary gift, it seems most likely that it would not have been a gift from Filippo Maria to Marie—if only because he doesn't seem to have enjoyed the marriage very much—but rather a gift from her to him, or a gift from someone else to the two of them as a couple. If the deck was meant to recall an event from fifteen years ago, that would help explain the archaic clothing on all the figures, which mikeh in a post in 2010 said is from "the early 1430s, if not earlier", i.e. from the era of that wedding.

2. The deck was made as a gift for Filippo Maria Visconti on some other occasion entirely unrelated to weddings, and the Love card shows the wedding simply because the entire deck was all about him and it was therefore appropriate to depict his marriage on that card (as we know, it is standard for the Love card to depict at least one couple). By thinking the Love card means the whole deck was made for a wedding, we may be reading too much into that one card.


I very much recommend taking a look at Reina Gabriele's dissertation. It contains a wealth of information on the heraldry of the Visconti and Sforza families, and looks like it will have other interesting information to provide. I haven't gone through the whole thing yet, but I did find a nice Petrarch reference on p. 102, which seems relevant to the question of Petrarchan influence on the tarot trumps—it's a quote from Decembrio's Vita, so it's probably already familiar to many of you, but not to me because I haven't read Decembrio yet:
Filippo Maria ebbe una vera e propria venerazione per Francesco Petrarca ... “Base della sua formazione letteraria, sebbene scritti in italiano, furono i sonetti del Petrarca dalla cui lettura si lasciava talmente prendere da volere che glieli commentassero anche quando era già duca e anche alla presenza di visitatori, fissando lui in anticipo i passi che desiderava venissero letti, e quali prima e quali dopo” (Decembrio 1983, p. 114-115)
(Filippo Maria had a real veneration for Francesco Petrarch ... "The sonnets of Petrarch, albeit written in Italian, formed the basis of his literary education, and he was so taken with the reading of them that he wanted to be given commentaries on them even after he had become duke and even in the presence of visitors, specifying in advance the passages he wanted to be read, and in what order")
[Original post updated Feb 24, 2020, to correct the source attribution of the illuminated initial P and to include that source in the list of Gabriele's evidence.]

Re: CY Swords fruit is neither quince nor pomegranate. It's medlar

Thank you very much for Gabriele Reina's thesis, Nathaniel. If we establish any new standard for the CY (for Italian patriots, that is Visconti di Modrone), we can credit her and let her know.

Why is the croce latina bianca in campo rosso not merely the stemma of Pavia, of which Filippo Maria was the Count for his whole life?

While it was a Visconti possession especially in the one person of Filippo Maria, it was biscione+croce latina bianca etc.
Image ... ti_CoA.svg

Filippo Maria always identified as the Count of Pavia, and after 1412, always began his letters with "Dux Mediolani et Papie Comes" before any other titles.

The two flags are just those of the Duke of Milan and the Count of Pavia.

Re: CY Swords fruit is neither quince nor pomegranate. It's medlar

Ross, I think the answer to your question is given by a simple comparative assessment of probabilities.

The CY Love card depicts a wedding.

Above the couple being married, there is a row of shields. Two coats of arms are displayed on them, each repeated multiple times, arranged alternately. They are not joined together on one bisected shield, as they are on the arms of Pavia; they are on separate shields, but conjoined by their placement next to each other. On a tent, which contains a bed, next to the couple getting married.

I think it's evident that anyone seeing that card—then as now—would almost certainly have concluded that the two coats of arms corresponded to the two people marrying each other, who are about to consumate their marriage in that bed, in that tent, under those shields.

I think it's equally evident that no one would have looked at it and thought, ah, those shields represent the city of Pavia and in no way represent the joining of the two families in the ceremony taking place directly below them.

Consequently, I think it is vastly more likely that the stemmi in question are those of the houses of Visconti and Savoy than that they represent the arms of the city of Pavia, and therefore I think we can safely assume that they are.

If this is not enough, there is further evidence to reinforce that conclusion:
- Filippo Maria's own personal stemma did not include the arms of Pavia, however he may have styled himself. It therefore seems very odd that he would use these two stemma to represent himself here (rather than his own personal arms).
- Marie of Savoy's personal stemma as Duchess of Milan was, as one would expect, a union of the Savoy arms and the Visconti arms (the latter in the form of Filippo Maria's personal stemma) and the result is reminiscent of the shields on the Love card. The resemblance is not as close as on the arms of Pavia, but on the other hand, it is far more likely to have relevance to a wedding on a playing card made for the ducal court: ... ery_4.html
- All of the other insignia in the deck are directly associated with the Visconti family, rather than any of the cities in its possession. This coat of arms is the only heraldic symbol in the entire deck that is not unequivocally a Visconti symbol. By far the simplest and most obvious explanation for its presence is that it represents the other party in the marriage.
- The deck appears to have a "love" theme to it, to some degree: as others have observed, there is a connection between the Love card and the suit of Staves, in that the male Lover is dressed exactly like the Jack of Staves, and the arrows used in place of staves on all the suit cards look very much like Cupid's arrows. That reinforces the impression that the wedding was an event of some significance, and not merely included on the card as a decorative ornament.

The last point has broader significance. The arrows-as-staves also appear on the Staves court cards in the Brera-Brambilla deck, so it clearly wasn't just a one-time variation introduced for the CY. Rather, it seems more likely to have been an established standard feature for the Visconti tarot decks at this time. It is a great pity that we do not have the Love card from the BB, as it would be interesting to see if that card also appears to depict Filippo Maria's wedding to Marie. In any case, it seems very likely that the BB Staves suit was also connected symbolically to the Love card, as in the CY.

This fits quite well with the theory I put forward in my second post in the Chariot thread, namely that the earliest proto-tarot—or at least, the first tarot pack to contain the Petrarchan Triumph cards—may have had a "love story" element to it. It seems like a strong possibility that the standard Milanese tarot pattern (to use Dummett's term) as used in the early 1440s may have retained elements of one originally designed to celebrate or commemorate Filippo Maria's marriage to Marie of Savoy, and may therefore date back to 1428 or not long after (which is also suggested by other details, such as the clothing of the figures).

In that sense, as I said at the end of my first post above, the CY may not necessarily have been a gift to commemorate that wedding. The Love card and its connections to the suit of Staves may simply have become a standard feature of the Visconti tarot decks.

I still think the CY was most likely to have been a gift to somebody, and most likely a gift to Filippo Maria himself—he loved cards, and was almost certainly responsible for the creation of the tarot deck, so what better gift than an extremely lavish one overflowing with his imprese? But it could well have been given to him in 1442, on the occasion of either the 30th anniversary of his reign and or the 50th anniversary of his birth.

Re: CY Swords fruit is neither quince nor pomegranate. It's medlar

Thanks, Nathaniel. Your arguments are persuasive, much stronger than mine in any case. The Love card represents the union of those two flags, and the only choice is Maria di Savoia. The same logic made Giuliana Algeri choose Bona di Savoia, married to Galeazzo Maria Sforza in 1468.

I have always believed CY was most likely a gift, and that it was certainly for a woman. I only cannot accept 1428 as a date for the deck, nor for Tarot itself to have existed then. Besides the documentary data, there is Bembo and the judgment of art historians putting it in the 1440s.

Maria remained childless, of course, and lived a secluded life. One can imagine her playing cards with her ladies. If we imagine a birthday gift, she turned 30 in January 1441, and 35 in January 1446. But it needn't be a round number or a 5.

Re: CY Swords fruit is neither quince nor pomegranate. It's medlar

I find it quite hard to believe that it could have been a gift for Marie, myself. All of the imprese are Visconti, except on that one card. Given that her marriage with Filippo Maria wasn't exactly a joyous one, it's a little hard to imagine someone giving her a gift of a pack of cards in which the only known acknowledgement of her own person appears on the card depicting her marriage to him, and which has only his imprese on all of the other cards. It just doesn't seem like something designed to please her. It looks much more like it was designed as a gift to flatter him—sure, he didn't enjoy the marriage either, but this gift would have been something seen by the entire court: it's not just private flattery, it's public flattery, and that means glorifying and idealizing everything about his life. So putting his marriage on the Love card is a no-brainer. If the deck was never going to be seen by anyone but him and his closest friends, you might have put his mistress Agnes on that card, but in the case of a gift this lavish, I think we can safely conclude it was intended to be seen by quite a few people.

It could have been a gift for some other woman perhaps—although not Bianca or Agnes!—especially if the extra female court cards were a special addition just for this deck, which is plausible. And then there's the possible "love story" theme that I spoke of before, including the Love-Staves connection. But I think the "love story" thing and possibly even the Love-Staves thing could predate the CY—it may go all the way back to the ur-tarot. So I'm still inclined more to the idea of the CY being a gift for F.M. himself, especially as there were such excellent occasions for giving him lavish gifts in exactly the right period of time for the deck's creation.

Which I do think was the first half of the 1440s. I didn't suggest the CY deck was created in 1428. If it was made specifically to commemorate the wedding, it must have been for an anniversary of the wedding in those years. But I certainly think it could have been modeled directly on an earlier deck—in fact, given its extensive similarities to the BB (even including the arrows in the Staves suit), I think this is highly likely. I think those two decks probably represent something of a standard pattern that had established itself at the Visconti court by this time.

I am prepared to accept 1428 as the earliest possible date for the creation of the proto-tarot that then developed later into that standard pattern. But no earlier, I think. For me, the plausible date range for the creation of the very first proto-tarot must be the ten years between 1428 and 1438, and I'm inclined to think the most likely date is exactly in the middle of that range: around 1433. This is early enough for the clothing on the figures to still be more or less fashionable (I find it very hard to believe that anyone would design new cards with figures wearing outfits that were just a few years out of date–fifteen or twenty years might be deliberate archaism, but a few years is just passé) and also enough time for the cards to undergo a certain amount of development into an established deck not too far off the standard tarot deck, and to increase in popularity, before it makes the leap to Florence, Ferrara and elsewhere. I'm also somewhat reluctant to put more time than that between the tarot deck and Marziano's deck. But at this stage I don't think we have enough information to categorically exclude any possible date in that ten-year range.

The lack of documentary evidence from 1430s Milan doesn't bother me, for two reasons: We have very little documentary evidence from Milan even after 1440, and our documentary evidence of cards or card games from anywhere much is very sketchy in the earlier decades. In Ferrara, for example, we hear nothing of Imperatori between 1423 and 1443 (as far as I know), but I don't think that means it wasn't being played there. And we don't have any evidence (again, as far as I know) of Imperatori from any other northern Italian cities in the 1420s or 1430s, but it must surely have been played in at least some of them throughout that entire time.

Re: CY Swords fruit is neither quince nor pomegranate. It's medlar

Thank you Natheniel for sharing your find of Gabriele's research. In light of this convincing evidence (one need go no further than the Decembrio reference) I readily acknowledge the plant on the CY is indeed the medlar and not the quince or pomegranate (despite numerous posts of my own referring to the last). Does this rule out a 1441 date for the Sforza-Bianca wedding? Actually the medlar is consistent with that wedding. Consider:

Well into November, long after other autumnal fruits have fallen to the ground, the small greenish-brown fruits of the medlar tree (Mespilus germanica) cling to its crooked boughs. The fruit is not harvested until the leaves fall, when the medlars can be easily plucked, although they are still too hard and acerbic to be eaten out of hand. Experts differ as to whether exposure to a few degrees of frost, which does the fruit no harm, is important to the long ripening process to come. Once gathered, the fruits are placed stem-side down in straw and stored in a cool, dark place for several weeks until they are rotten-ripe and the pulp has turned into a delicious mush a process known as bletting. (Lee Reich, Uncommon Fruits Worthy of Attention, 1992).


The Milanese artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo used a particular plant as a boutonniere standing off the chest to especially represent each of his allegorical composite paintings of the four seasons (c. 1573 - but the date is pointless here, the seasons and their produce do not change); for Autumn it was the medlar:



Bianca Visconti departed Pavia to sail down the Po River to marry Francesco Sforza outside Cremona over a multi-day affair for matrimonial celebrations lasting from October 25-28, 1441. One of the four suits was assigned the otherwise minor and virtually unknown Visconti impresa of the medlar because it had seasonal relevance - despite the season, that fruit still clung to its tree and thus connoted fruitfulness - entirely appropriate for a marriage union (associating fruitfulness/bounty with the wedding was clearly an iconographical concern as it was also symbolized by the green garland crown worn by the female knight of batons/"fountains" as well as on the bride shown on the Chariot, but the garland is gilt there).

Perhaps obscure to us, but not to a time when food didn't magically appear in grocery stores for purchase. The entire medieval worldview was shot through with references to the seasonal cycle, especially in the way religious feasts were embedded in the calendars of Psalters or Books of Hours that otherwise illustrated the "labors of the months", in connection to the passing of astronomical time in the Signs of the Zodiac. Even in the refined studiolo of Piero de Medici the ceiling was covered with Luca della Robbia's tin-glazed terracotta Labors of the Months (now in the V&A Museum, London; "November": ... _jpg_l.jpg ). As for the medlar, a fruit that was then commonly eaten (e.g., Charlemagne recommended he planted everywhere and it is featured in the Milanese Tacuinum Sanitatis manuscripts) but had an aberrant fruiting cycle was bound to stick out, and so not obscure at all and could easily symbolize autumn as in the case of Arcimboldo, notably a Milanese.

It is also worth noting that the astrological month of late October (Scorpius) would place the Bianca/Sforza wedding in a month otherwise usually labeled "November", almost always shown as a peasant knocking acorns from oak trees for pigs below (with a zodiacal scorpion in the sky above; e.g., in the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry: ... vembre.jpg ). To say that acorns would have been a bad symbol for the time of year the wedding was held is an understatement (no bride wants to be associated with hogs); interestingly Piero's ceiling shows olive harvesting, another late fall product - so alternates to acorns were available. Given the medlar as an impresa of Visconti, no better, ready-made symbol could be found to celebrate the time of year for this wedding - a date driven by the political need for Sforza to be given his prize before concluding the Peace of Cavriana the following month (no Bianca, no peace for that phase of the Lombard Wars). Otherwise weddings were held in more typical times of the year - Carnival in Venice, St. John's Day in Florence, etc. The medlar is not especially associated with weddings...but it is with autumn.

I'll treat with "Savoy" this weekend.

On a side note: All references to “pomegranate” need to be put to bed (again, I’ve been quite guilty of making these references). Pomegranate is not a synonym for quince, and the Italian word for the latter is essentially the same for the town of Cotignola from where the Attendolo/Sforza hail from: Mela cotogna. Pomegranate is melograno. Alas, pomegranate has always been a red herring. A pomegranate does have a crown, even more pronounced than the medlar (was it Moakley or Kaplan that first misidentified the medlar?), but its not just the Italian name that instead points us to the quince but the Sforza depictions of the fruit (already noted by Natheniel above), which is clearly a quince: ... 25853d.jpg
Photo of a quince: ... ydonia.jpg

Re: CY Swords fruit is neither quince nor pomegranate. It's medlar

Ross and Natheniel,
You are both trying to make yourselves believe the CY love tent flag is Savoy against your better judgement, so let me disabuse you of that notion here. I was able to view the Stemmario Trivulziano (c. 1461-66) yesterday at the Newberry Library in order to help shed some light on Savoy versus Pavia on the CY Love trump, but first we should consider why cities not so far apart have the same stemma - the answer is simple:
Ghibelline cities.jpg
(54.12 KiB) Not downloaded yet

A historical example - Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, storming a city at the Battle of Cortenuova (1237) from the Nuova Cronica of Giovanni Villani, c. 1350:


There is accordingly nothing intrinsically meaningful about this flag other than it means "imperial" or "Ghibelline." During the political machinations of the Council of Basel, Filippo and Emperor Sigismund both recalled their ambassadors from one another and after 1435 the Emperor was aligned with Venice against Visconti, despite the vassalage. When Sigismund died in December 1437 there was not another Holy Roman Emperor until 1452 when Frederick III descended to Italy to be crowned. At the time of the CY there was therefore no emperor, but the animosity between Sigismund and Filippo was literally dead and buried and Filippo could portray a Emperor and Empress in the CY was no odd feelings about the matter (in fact the Empress was very much alive and jockeying for continued rule, but that's a matter germane to the German electors). He had his card deck stand-ins bless his own doings, which was assigning an imperial fief, Cremona, to his new son-in-law. The Pavia pennant on the love's tent exclaims the same thing - this wedding is being held under imperial auspices, at least Filippo was intent on depicting that. As only the third duke of Milan to be invested as such with the appropriate imperial rescript by the Emperor, it was of course an important aspect of Filippo Visconti's legitimacy. So by marrying a Savoyard ducal daughter that did not make Filippo anymore imperial than Pavia does, with its own strong imperial heritage (and see below for the three imperial eagles used for the stemma of the county of Pavia). In fact the benefit of that marriage was all too fleeting.

The political context of that marriage explains why Savoy is unlikely in the extreme (and not sure why Cremona was mentioned at all in this context – its stemma is alternating horizontal bands of red and white, like the Venier family stemma on the Sola Busca). Decembrio curtly reports that “During his first war with Venice, however, similar circumstances forced him to marry Maria, daughter of the Duke of Savoy” (vita Filippo, 38; tr. p. 59). The specific context, from Gary Ianziti’s translation notes of Pier Candido Decembrio's Lives of the Milanese Tyrants:

The pact between the Houses of Savoy and Visconti was signed on December 2, 1427. The move was a desperate attempt on the part of Filippo Maria to shore up his position after the defeat at Maclodio [the Lombard army under Carlo Malatesta was thoroughly routed by Carmagnola]. For his relations with his second wife, Marie of Savoy (1411-69), see below, [Decembrio’s] chapter 39. (2019: 277, n. 37)

Not only did Filippo not receive a dowry domain but instead had to give one to Savoy: Vercelli. In the intervening period Venice was already in talks with the Duke of Savoy to ensure their neutrality by 1431 and a fully fledged ally against Visconti in 1435 (see Dennis Romano. The Likeness of Venice: A Life of Doge Francesco Foscari, 1373-1457; 2007: 99 and 124 respectively). At all events, there isn't a single reason Filippo would recognize Savoy or his locked away and unloved Savoyard wife with a luxury deck that most likely rivaled the Marziano deck in cost (more cards and lavishly decorated in gilt).

The political situation of late 1427 simply did not exist in the 1440s, and Filippo did not have a reason to recall those “desperate” times nor did he ever grow fond of Marie – whom he was “forced” to marry – instead he recognized his daughter Bianca from Agnese as legitimate. Moreover, once Filippo died in 1447 Marie fled back to Savoy and eventually roused her relations there to attack Sforza, now in control of Milan; why did she not take the CY with her if she were connected to it and why no mention of early tarot decks in that country (as there were in Ferrara)? Instead the Sforzan PMB clearly draws on the CY in minute details, such as the ducal crown impresa associated with the suit of cups in both decks. It stands to reason the CY was in possession of Bianca/Sforza and the PMB was a variation of it under greatly different circumstances. Sforza himself points us to the significance of Pavia in terms of Milanese succession – at least in the mind of Sforza (and in Filippo's, as we shall see) – made clear by Sforza’s actions, even when employed by the Ambrosian Republic, as once again explained by Ianziti notes on Decembrio’s passage on Sforza taking “the most beautiful and graceful of all the cities of Lombardy, as well as being a place of immense strategic importance” (vita Sforza, 32.1, p. 215):

In September 1447, Sforza took control of Pavia in his own name, not in the name of the Milanese, on whose behalf he was supposed to be fighting. The move revealed the condottiere’s true colors and caused considerable consternation in Milan, where the government immediately and unsuccessfully sought to negotiate a separate peace agreement with Venice, hoping thereby to divest itself of Sforza altogether (ibid, 307-308, n. 87).

When Nathaniel dismisses Pavia as just one of “any of the cities in [Viscount'is] possession” that is a mischaracterization of its significance. Besides the comments already made above, one should note that in its earlier history Pavia was the Lombard capital until Charlemagne himself conquered it in 774 and thus how Lombardy became an imperial fief (and why Holy Roman Emperors were crowned with the Iron Crown of Italy in the Duchy). It remained an independent imperial city (and rival to Milan) until 1359 so its own coat of arms was well known. In fact the county of Pavia has a different stemma that is just imperial eagles and was used in Gian Galeazzo's Eulogy illumination by Besozzo. The county of "Papie"/Pavia appears as the third most important armorial for Filippo (after a combined radiant sun lead armoiral, followed by a Valois one and then Pavia); Maspoli describes it as such:

Lo stemma della contea di Pavia, che comprendeva, oltre alla citta di Pavia, anche Voghera, Bassignana, Valenza e Casale, era d’oro, a tre aquile di nero, coronate d’oro, linguate di rosso, poste in palo: tale stemma, sovente partito col biscione visconteo, era appannaggic, con il titolo, dei primogeniti delle casa ducale. Ai funerali di Gian Galeazzo Visconti quest’insegna figurava fra gli stemmi delle contee, citta e terre del ducato portate dai paggi insieme alle imprese viscontee. Nel manoscritto latino 5888 (c.1) della Bibilioteca Nazionale di Parigi, contenente l’Elogio funebre di Gian Galeazzo, vi e miniature raffigurante Gian Galeazoo Visconti incoronato dal Bamino Gesu: a lato un angelo innalza la bandiera della contea di Pavia recante le tre aquile ordinate in palo; identico stemma campeggia sul monument funebre di Gian Galeazzo Visconti nella Certosa di Pavia.

The coat of arms of the county of Pavia, which included, in addition to the city of Pavia, also Voghera, Bassignana, Valenza and Casale, was of gold, with three black eagles, crowned with gold, tongued with red, placed on the pole: such coat of arms, often started with the Visconti biscion [not always], a prerogative, with the title, of the firstborn of the ducal house. At the funeral of Gian Galeazzo Visconti this sign was among the coats of arms of the counties, cities and lands of the duchy brought by the pages together with the Visconti companies. In the Latin manuscript 5888 (c.1) of the National Library of Paris, containing the funeral praise of Gian Galeazzo, there and miniatures depicting Gian Galeazzo Visconti crowned by the Child Jesus: on the side an angel raises the flag of the county of Pavia bearing the three eagles ordered in stakes [the banner that is the same height as Mary on the right side of the scene]; identical coat of arms stands on the funeral monument of Gian Galeazzo Visconti in the Certosa di Pavia. ( Carlo Maspoli, Stemmario Trivulziana, 2000: 29)

The Stemmario Trivulziano proceeds by showing the armorials of the first 4 dukes through Sforza, then the communes' stemmi, and finally the laundry list of those families given a coat of arms in the duchy, but Sforza also has it show major regional forces such as the Medici, Malatesta, etc. (notably, no Savoy). Conveniently one plate shows all of Filippo's armorials and most of Sforza's (the bottom fifth and sisth ones), per plate 5 below (partially shown by Nathaniel/Gabriele above). Per above, Pavia/"Papie" (upper right) - was important enough to have its own armorial, right after a recognition of the dynasty's connection to the French court, and followed by Angera (always important as the castle there holds the cycle of frescoes celebrating the foundation of the Visconti), all three surrounded by medlar (incorrectly identified by Maspoli as melagrano) , and follows the Eulogy county version of Pavia with three imperial eagles stacked vertically:

ducal armorials, StemTriv. p. 63, plate 5.jpg
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Decembrio further notes Filippo was entirely raised in Pavia (vita Visconti, 5), was its titular count (ibid, 7) and used it as his base to take Milan proper from his brother Giovanni Maria (ibid, 8). Pavia, whose castle was as much the ducal seat for Filippo as the Porta Giovia in Milan, if not moreso, was the first fief Filippo ever held as "crown prince", and it is from there where the father of the bride gave away his daughter; he did not attend the nuptial events in Cremona. Given this context, it would not be unusual to see the dominion of Pavia under its own original flag, given Filippo’s special relationship to it (princes love the litanies of domains in their titles). I would also note that is from Pavia that Bianca sailed down the Po to Cremona to be married in 1441; a route she had previously followed when she visited Ferrara for the New Year's Eve festivities and suitors there for the New Year earlier in 1441.

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As to the objection that the Pavia flag was split with the biscione - that flag apparently existed (I can't find a historical example) but so did the commune's standard red and white banner and Sforza had no reason to change the way that stemma of the commune (not the county) of Pavia/Papie was portrayed; it is simply as the red field with white cross (it appears again further into the manuscript as a family name/coat of arms - da Pavia - and in exactly the same way).

Stemmario Trivulziano p. 66 plate 18.jpg
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Pavia is never shown in the stemmario as split with the biscione. Yes the stemmario was created by Sforza and not Filippo, and so one sees certain towns such as Cremona given an undue place of honor that Filippo would have never accorded, but where is the contrary evidence Filippo refused to depict the communal stemma of Pavia this way? And again, why would Sforza change that when he adopted the biscione himself (along with all of the other Visconti imprese)?

If the CY celebrates the Sforza-Bianca wedding, as I maintain (and more importantly, the CY commemorates the condotte between Sforza and Filippo, the latter stealing him away – however symbolically - from hated Florence and Venice), it is important to still point out that the four suits are split between the groom and bride. The CY Love groom’s clothing is decorated with the Fountain of Love as is the entire suit of batons. And my argument for the helmeted page of the King of Swords referencing the one Muzio Sforza tried to save but died drowning is still valid in light of any alternative reading of this enigmatic card (why else is that page helmeted?). Batons and swords being appropriate to condottiero - how would they be appropriate to Filippo who was so corpulent he couldn't even mount a horse?

The broader issue is Filippo assigning one of his own impresa to the groom - the medlar (not sure if we can refer to that fruit as an impresa proper as it merely surrounds more traditional imprese, but clearly a marker of Visconti). More on the greater cultural context of chivalric-symbol sharing below in a "part III" post I'm still editing. But I'll deal here with one final issue broached by Nathaniel, that Sforza was dark-haired and the CY are all blonde. I would point out that so are all the persons in the Sforzan PMB. Blonde hair was an influential Angevin/ French convention of how beauty should be portrayed; on this point see Charles Dempsey, The Early Renaissance and Vernacular Culture, 2012: 43-50. Looking for portraiture in the cards is a pointless endeavor as its all Bembo caricature – they are stock faces straight out of his copybook as evidenced by his c. 1446 illustration of Zuliano de Anzoli’s Lancelot of the Lake (Codex Palatino 556).

CY-Lancelot comparison.JPG
CY-Lancelot comparison.JPG (28.84 KiB) Viewed 7247 times

Finally, if the bride is from Savoy – with a supposed Savoy pennant above her in the CY Love card - why is the same bride holding the chastity jousting shield on the chariot not holding a symbol of Savoy, but rather the radiant dove of the Visconti? Neither Filippo nor any other Milanese noble is extending that Visconti symbol to the bride – rather the bride holds it out, not so much in protective mode from cupid’s arrows – but offered, for she is already Visconti (not a foreigner, like Marie). But to whom? Sforza of course – another reiteration of him being welcomed into the family as Vicecomes, who arrives from Ancona down the coast in the CY “World” card. Counter-intuitive since traditionally a woman loses her name and enters the groom’s family, but the Pisanello medal for Sforza produced at this same time shows "VICECOMES"/Visconti on the obverse, upper right above Sforza's profile. Clearly Sforza was considered family and allowed to use the name and presumably some of its impresa (a condottiero would have been assigned the war stendardo at all events, as we see on the CY "World"). Gesture-wise, there is no difference between the bride on the CY Chariot trump and the CY Empress - both hold a jousting shield but embossed with their respective self-identifying symbols: the radiant dove and the imperial eagle, ergo there is no possible way for the bride to be from elsewhere:

CY Empress Chariot both w jousting shield.JPG
CY Empress Chariot both w jousting shield.JPG (83.17 KiB) Viewed 7247 times


Re: CY Swords fruit is neither quince nor pomegranate. It's medlar


So why did Visconti “loan” Sforza an impresa on the wedding occasion (the medlar)? And more shocking and correct is Natheniel’s observation that “there is no Sforza heraldry in the CY deck at all”; in fact in the entire corpus of surviving Visconti-Sforza cards, there is only one Sforza impresa – the three-ring device on the PMB Emperor and Empress – and that too was loaned, per Maspoli in his discussion of the Stemmario Trivulziano (anyone want to improve on my few tweaks to the machine translation below, please be my guest):
L’impresa dei tre anelli intrecciati a triangolo, ognuni con incastonato un diamante tagliato a punta (i diamanti erano rari e molto pregiati, nela prima meta del XV secolo, per il loro taglio e la loro sfaccettatura) fu concessa nel 1409 dal marchese di Ferrara Niccolo III d’Este, a Muzio Attendolo Sforza dopo che questi ebbe conquistato Reggio in Emilia, Parma e Borgo S. Donnino (Fidenza), terre gia appartenute a Ottone Terzi: ‘El marchese (Niccolo III d’Este) dette Montecchio de Parmesana in tutto liberamente a Sforz, a li dette il stendardo de diamanti. Allora Sforza comenso a portare inanse et mandare el stendardo de quartieri sotto cui andavano poi sotto el stendardo de diamanti con loro regazi [fn 25].’ Diego Sant’ Ambrogio, ricorrendo all’aiuto della numismatica, attesta che nel medagliere Della Gherardesca in Pisa si custodisce una monetina di bassissma lega d’argento di Cabrino Fondulo (1370-1425), signore di Cremona, che presenta da un parte la legenda Cabinus Cremone dominus unita alla croce patente, e dall’altra I tre anelli intrecciati a triangolo, purtroppo con la legnda corrosa. Il Fondulo, penando cosi di legittimare il proprio domino, si fece conferire nel 1413 dall’imperatore Sigismondo la nomina a vicario imperiale in Cremona, e nel gennaio 1414 ricevette con tutti gli onori lo stesso imperatore e il papa di obbedienza pisana Giovanni XXIII (Baldassarre Cossa) nella sua citta: I tre nelli sembrano rappresentare simbolicamente la concorrenza nel governo di Cremona del Fondulo, dell’imperatore e dell’antipapa.

Filippo Maria Visconti dopo essersi impossessato della signoria di Cremona, decapito nel 1425 il Fondulo, accusandolo di connivenza con Venezia, e doto quindi la sua figlia naturale Bianca Maria, andata sposa a Francesco Sforza, della citta gia del Fondulo. Alla morte del suocero, Francesco I Sforza, conquistato il ducato di Milano, per accattivarsi o contraccambiare le famiglie milanesi che l’avevano appoggiato, le insigni dell impres dei tre anelli intecciati che campeggia negli stemmi delle famiglie Borromeo, Birago, Sanseverino e Cavazzi della Somaglia, e volle altresi che quest’impresa fosse effigiate in una sua moneta, per altro di pessima lega: e chiaro che lo Sforza assumendo quest’impresa non la derive dal Fondulo ma da Muzio Attendolo suo padre.

The undertaking of the three intertwined triangulated rings, each with a pointed cut diamond (the diamonds were rare and very valuable, in the first half of the fifteenth century, for their cut and their facet) was granted in 1409 by the Marquis of Ferrara Niccolo III d'Este, to Muzio Attandolo Sforza after he conquered Reggio in Emilia, Parma and Borgo S. Donnino (Fidenza), lands already belonging to Ottone Terzi: 'El marchese (Niccolo III d'Este) called Montecchio de Parmesana in all freely in Sforza, and gave them the banner of diamonds. Then Sforza commences to carry and send the banner of dominions which they went under the banner of diamonds with his rule [fn 25]. " Diego Sant 'Ambrogio, resorting to the help of numismatics, certifies that in the Della Gherardesca medal collection in Pisa there is a small silver coin of Cabrino Fondulo (1370-1425), lord of Cremona, who presents the legend on one side Cabinus Cremone dominus joined to the patent cross, and on the other side the three intertwined triangular rings, unfortunately with corroded wood. Fondulo, thus trying to legitimize his own domino, was conferred in 1413 by the emperor Sigismund the nomination as imperial vicar in Cremona, and in January 1414 he received with all honors the same emperor and the Pisan obedience pope John XXIII (Baldassarre Cossa) in his city: The three rings seem to symbolically represent competition [cooperation is meant here?] in the government of Cremona del Fondulo, the emperor and the antipope.

Filippo Maria Visconti after having taken possession of the lordship of Cremona, beheaded Fondulo in 1425, accusing him of connivance with Venice, and therefore gave his natural daughter Bianca Maria, married to Francesco Sforza, the city formerly with Fondulo. On the death of his father-in-law, Francesco I Sforza, conquered the Duchy of Milan, to win over or exchange the Milanese families who had supported him, distinguished with the impresa of the three intertwined rings that stands out in the coats of arms of the Borromeo, Birago, Sanseverino and Cavazzi families of the Somaglia, and he also wanted this impresa to be portrayed in one of his coins, which is, moreover, of a very bad issue: it is clear that Sforza assuming this undertaking does not derive it from Fondulo but from Muzio Attandolo his father (35-36).
What militates against this last assessment – the three ringed-device being derived from Niccolo III d’Este without any influence from Fondulo’s version in Cremona – is threefold:
1. The d’Este use seems to have been a singular ring
2. There is no evidence of a Sforza displaying the three ring device before Sforza inherited Cremona
3. In the first Sforza armorial in the stemmario the three-ringed device only appears in the one naming the usual suspects of Milan, Pavia and Angera, but adds Cremona (the next armorial names only Parma and Alessandria and depicts a single diamond):

Sforza armorial with 3 rings and Cremona.JPG
Sforza armorial with 3 rings and Cremona.JPG (81.41 KiB) Viewed 6890 times

My conclusion is that Muzio received the single diamond ring impresa from the d’Este and that Sforza expanded it to three after understanding the papal-imperial-dominion significance in Cremona, with an emphasis on imperial since it is only the Emperor and Empress that are dressed in that impresa, intersticed with the Visconti ducal crown. Furthermore, Sforza in turn “loaned” that impresa to his most important financial backers, the Medici and Borromeo.

The depiction of Muzio on the Gino di Neri Capponi cassone depicting the 1406 fall of Pisa (its cassone companion piece is the victory at Anghiari) is clearly a retrodating of the likeness of the son Francesco and his impresa, a popular figure in Florence when the cassone was painted (e.g., Galeazzo Maria, the grandson, and his celebrated visit to Florence in 1459 around the time this was painted) , onto Muzio the father - even throwing in the horse bit impresa in addition to the three-ring device. Obviously this is not evidence of anything.

Capponi cassone, c. 1460.JPG
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At all events, no three ring impresa is in the CY. Do we know for sure if Sforza had any identifying impresa before 1440, besides the calza depicted on the groom in the love card? Naturally he would have used the family colors of red quartered by a silver-white/blue nebuly, but was there any additional symbol identifying him, such as we find with his relation Michelotto da Cotignola shown with couchant unicorn with banderole in Uccello’s Battle of San Romano (this painting too being rather late, perhaps 1455):
Attendolo stendardo.JPG
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In fact the only thing we can say with certainty regarding any pre-1440 image of Francesco Sforza is the Pisanello medal that was contemporary with the wedding and yet another medal done for his new master, Filippo Visconti:

Filippo and Sforza medlas, c. 1440.JPG
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The obverse portrait of Sforza features a tall berretta and thus the face is rather small; the reverse a collection of three objects a horse hed, sword and stack of books. The numismatic/medal literature almost always makes some inane guesswork of the horse being one of Sforza’s favorite, as in Alexander the Great’s favorite mount, Bucephalus. What is instead clear is that it merely underscores his claim on nobility, belying his uneasiness with his fairly common origins. For in Italian, as in Latin, the name for a knight is plainly derived from the same name for a horse (eques/equus; cavaliere/cavallo – the former as in the “equestrian” order – that which was below the senatorial order in ancient Rome). The books and sword look like the recycling of an early humanist touch as attributes for the nascent knight, as in this c. 1410 illumination for de Pizan’s Othea, where “wisdom” – Minerva and Pallas Athena (she borrowed that confusing doubling of the same goddess from Boccaccio), hand out their gifts to the knightly and clerical/scholar classes below (like the “children of the planets” series from the same work, but obviously still a nod to the active and contemplative lives, both as virtues here, but combined for Sforza as a true Renaissance man):


Perhaps the books were meant to portray Sforza as enlightened by actually having read about Alexander or even the works of Julius Caesar himself (Filelfo would have guffawed at that one – Sforza as man of arms and scholar). But none of this is a specific impresa. Its embarrassingly generic – as if Sforza was a knight errant who sought who out a patent of nobility from the Wizard of Oz, the latter reaching into his bag of goodies and pulled out this medal: “I hereby christen thee: Francesco, noble knight.”

One might argue the very name “Sforza” (fortitude) was his impresa, but there is something on the medal, to reiterate a point already made above, even more meaningful than that name – VICECOMES/Visconti. Filippo does more than share an impresa – his very name – and Sforza signed his own name (or rather Cicchus did for him) henceforth as Vicecomes. To loan an iconographic impresa, the medlar, at the time of the wedding would not have been radical in the least after Filippo had already lent him his name. After all, Sforza was already family in some sense, ergo no need to show impresa unique to Sforza (if in fact it even existed).

But was such a loaning of impresa that common? It is generally agreed on by scholars now that the origins for imprese came from chivalric orders, especially French “neo-chivalric” orders of the 15th century. Lippincott offers a succinct summary of that development:

In the first case, the imagery of heraldry was modified to symbolize a knight’s moral quest. The knight, as a Christian solider, was duty-bound no only to fight for his king, but to fight for the greater glory of God. An implied part of the contract was for the knight to perfect his own, noble, Christian virtues. As Michael Pastoureau has suggested, this “additionality” was expressed through a change in the knight’s armor, which during the second half of the fourteenth century, began to take on what he calls ‘para-heraldic’ elements, such as helmet crests and supports. These, he argues, were exclusively used for the proclamation of a knight’s personal hopes and endeavors. In French, the contract binding a knight to his lord – the chivalric vow – is called ‘’emprise." It is his ‘undertaking’ or his ‘enterprise.’ Accordingly, a body of images as developed by the aristocratic classes solely to serve the pupose of symbolizing their commitment to knightly virtue, their emprise. (Kristen Lippincott, "Un gran pelago: the impresa and the medal reverse’ in Perspectives on the Renaissance Medal" ed. Stephen K. Scher, 2000, pp. 75-96: 77).

Generally speaking, a prince invented an order and recognized allies within his realm and without, handing out the key symbol of the order to each member. A shared impresa then is something that similarly fostered allegiance or alliance (the latter in the case of foreign subjects that were members to an order). On the CY Chariot we find Bianca, if my interpretation is correct, offering the radiant dove on the shield, a device often shown with the scroll “a bon droit” on it. If all Sforza had at the time of the wedding was the single diamond ring device, is it possible that the radiant dove – clearly a symbol of the Holy Ghost (who else would give “good right” to rule to a Christian prince?) – did this in turn spur the development of the Sforza three-ringed device we first encounter from him on the Emperor/Empress in the PMB with a Trinitarian aspect?

Consider that Sforza’s dominion up to that point, the Marche of Ancona, was overrun with Franciscan Spirituals, driven by the “Holy Ghost” movement (a third age dominated by that aspect of the Trinity in which a “Last Emperor” would appear before the end times). Works associated with Joachim of Fiore, the spiritual leader of that movement, emphasized three intertwined circles:


Inspired by the poverty-zealot Franciscan Spirituals, the “tribune” [Nic]Cola di Rienzo tried to lead a class-based revival of ancient Roman political customs but under the banner of the Holy Spirit, against the baronial families ruling the Rome, notably the Orsini and Colonna. Cola’s intellectual champion back in Avignon where the pope then held court was none other than Petrarch. The dove was the insignia that Cola’s followers marched under, 1344-1354, until he was overthrown by the baronial families and killed (see Ronald F. Musto, Apocalypse in Rome: Cola di Rienzo and the Politics of the New Age, 2003, especially 127-150 and 180-192, and figure 22, for his Holy Spirit coat of arms; Petrarch figures throughout the work). Excerpt of Rienzo’s speech after his own knighting:

We, Candidate of the Holy Spirit, Knight, Nicholas, Severe and Clement, Liberator of the city, Zealot of Italy, Lover of the World and Tribune Augustus, wishing and desiring of the Holy Spirit be received and increased in the City as well as throughout Italy…. (ibid, 180).

Just before Cola was done away with, an "Order of the Knot" (Ordre du Nœud, also known as Ordre du Saint-Esprit au Droit Désir "Order of the Holy Spirit of the Right Will") was founded in 1352/3 by Louis I of Naples, along with his grand seneschal Niccolò Acciaioli, a member of a Florentine banking family, but this member unusually turned towards arms for a living. Louis was of course an Angevin, related to the royal Valois house of France that the Visconti intermarried with. Also noteworthy is a later Neapolitan Angevin, Rene of Anjou, who created his own chivalric order in which he enrolled Sforza. But the Order of the Know/Holy Spirit of Right Will” presaged both the Visconti knot impresa and the dove, which figures throughout the order’s illuminated statute, preserved as BNF Fr 4274; an example of the pronounced use of the holy spirit dove motif, which is not a far leap to the Visconti radiant dove:

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And to come full circle, less than a decade after the short-lived Neapolitan/Angevin “Order of the Holy Spirit of Right Will” was created, Petrarch devised the (tellingly) French motto for the Visconti: a bon droit (not unlike the “droit desir” in the full title of the Angevin order – both featuring the dove of the Holy Spirit).

To recall the quote of Lippincott above, the impresa usually had a religious connotation, as indeed the radiant dove of Visconti did, but was itself not a chivalric order, but the device's origins betray similar ambitions. The three-ring device no doubt was the Sforza court’s modest contribution for this Trinitarian mania in a knightly context. When he literally impressed this impresa onto the Emperor/Empress in the PMB it was no doubt in the self-serving sense that the pope and future Holy Roman Emperor (which was imminent after Sforza took Milan in 1450, Frederick III being crowned in 1452) would broker a peace for the “third wheel” of that heavenly symbol reflected into the Christian order on earth, Sforza’s dominion of the Lombard duchy (and again, view the PMB “world” where Milan is an idealized New Jerusalem with a starry firmament above it). That eventually happened in 1454 with the Peace of Lodi. Whether intentional or not, that World card does not have the putti flanking the normal heraldric device but places it above them (perhaps just due to the card's dimensions), but makes them appear as the hanging ends of the Trinitarian Visconti knot, the capitergium (see E. Hirsch, Five Illuminated Manuscripts of Giangeleazzo Visconti, 1991:24, for a discussion of its Trinitarian aspects going back to Louis of Taranto in 1353), featured in the Stemmario and in the Brambilla deck, for instance (below):
Brambilla 2 cups and CY world.JPG
Brambilla 2 cups and CY world.JPG (119.08 KiB) Viewed 6875 times


Re: CY Swords fruit is neither quince nor pomegranate. It's medlar

I have finally had a chance to examine these posts in a less than hurried manner. When they were posted I was too busy with some other projects to pay attention.

I have one thing to add on the Savoy/Pavia question. There was also Bianca of Savoy who could have been commemorated, with Filippo elevated by association with his illustrious forbear Galeazzo II. Not as a marriage gift for her, obviously (this was in 1350). But if other stemmi can derive from this era, (the dove, radiant sun and "A bon droit" is from c. 1353, she says, p. 250), why not the banners on the Love card?

Then there is the symbolism. Gabriele mentions Chaucer's reference to the medlar in the Prologue to the Reeve's Tale:
But if I fare as dooth an open-ers
That ilke fruit is ever lenger the wers
Til it be roten in mullock or in straw.
We olde men, I drede, so fare we:
Til we be roten, kan we nat be rype”.

Modernized spelling:
But if I fare as does an open-arse
That same fruit is ever the longer [it lasts] the worse,
Until it be rotten in muck or in straw.
We old men, I fear, so fare we:
Until we be rotten, can we not be ripe.
This is in the Prologue, immediately following the Miller's tale, which involves, among other things, a man asking for a kiss in the dark, who is offered her "ers" instead.

Gabriele also notes Shakespeare's use in As you like it:
I'll graff it with you, and then I shall graff it with a medlar: then it will be the earliest fruit i' the country; for you'll be rotten ere you be half ripe, and that's the right virtue of the medlar”.
These play on the custom of eating the fruit when it has fermented.

She notes that the fruit is associated with patience and perseverance. She quotes one authority as saying it represents "Pazienza volontaria, Politica sagace, Consiglio prudente, e Amore verace ”. These mainly fit the meaning (well, one of them) in Chaucer and As you like it, patience to let the fruit ferment.

But she omits the most relevant Shakespeare quote, in Romeo and Juliet, where Mercutio says of Romeo :
Now will he sit under a medlar tree
And wish his mistress were that kind of fruit
As maids call medlars when they laugh alone.
O Romeo, that she were, O that she were
An open-arse and thou a poperin pear!
The same connotation is in the French, "fruit de trou de cul", so surely in Italy, too, similar to the pomegranate, a feminine fertility symbol.

A poperin pear is a type from Popperinge, Belgium, referenced by John Skelton, a tutor to Henry VIII, in a satirical poem about Cardinal Wolsey, the "parrot": "In Popering grew pears when parrot was an egg" ( For Shakespeare it is the occasion for a pun as well as a visual image.

Not only does she miss this meaning, but can't see that when combined with pears on a painting there might be an allegorical meaning (p. 141):
l drappo (1476-1490) del trono di Mattia Corvino, opera di manifattura fiorentina su disegno di Antonio del Pollaiolo, raffigura lo stemma reale circondato da una ghirlanda con foglie di quercia, frutti di nespolo, pere e melograni (Budapest, Magyar Nemzeti Muzeum),604 ma è dubbio se racchiudessero un significato allegorico.

The drape (1476-1490) of the throne of Mattia Corvino, a work of Florentine manufacture based on a design by Antonio del Pollaiolo, depicts the royal coat of arms surrounded by a wreath with oak leaves,medlar fruits, pears and pomegranates (Budapest, Magyar Nemzeti Muzeum), 604 but it is doubtful if it contained an allegorical meaning.

Besides the fruit of the medlar, there is also its flower, another Visconti impresa. I seem to see it also on Filippo's coin, just above the horse's head.
It seems to be the same as the flower on the 1499 Sforza Castle Two of Coins, repeated in some of the TdMs, e.g. Chosson (below right), and of course the logo of THF, on the upper right corner of your screen.
it seems to me unlikely that this flower, in a card by a known Milanese card maker of the time, is borrowed from Lyon - unless they, too, celebrated the medlar. It suggests to me that more likely this card is standard Milanese issue, deriving from the Sforza and their Visconti forebears.

The flower is also in the PMB. Usually it has five petals, but in the 3 of Batons I count four. It is interspersed with a rather phallic looking green fruit. Here are some examples in the cards, along with the five petaled flower: ... -of-staves. It is possible that the fruit in question is an exaggerated form of the "Abate" variety of pear, ... -240878374, which supposedly comes from France.

See also this one ... n-art.html, which if green would be a fairly close match.

Re: CY Swords fruit is neither quince nor pomegranate. It's medlar

Nathaniel wrote,
...I didn't suggest the CY deck was created in 1428. If it was made specifically to commemorate the wedding, it must have been for an anniversary of the wedding in those years. But I certainly think it could have been modeled directly on an earlier deck—in fact, given its extensive similarities to the BB (even including the arrows in the Staves suit), I think this is highly likely. I think those two decks probably represent something of a standard pattern that had established itself at the Visconti court by this time.

I am prepared to accept 1428 as the earliest possible date for the creation of the proto-tarot that then developed later into that standard pattern. But no earlier, I think. For me, the plausible date range for the creation of the very first proto-tarot must be the ten years between 1428 and 1438, and I'm inclined to think the most likely date is exactly in the middle of that range: around 1433. This is early enough for the clothing on the figures to still be more or less fashionable (I find it very hard to believe that anyone would design new cards with figures wearing outfits that were just a few years out of date–fifteen or twenty years might be deliberate archaism, but a few years is just passé) and also enough time for the cards to undergo a certain amount of development into an established deck not too far off the standard tarot deck, and to increase in popularity, before it makes the leap to Florence, Ferrara and elsewhere. I'm also somewhat reluctant to put more time than that between the tarot deck and Marziano's deck. But at this stage I don't think we have enough information to categorically exclude any possible date in that ten-year range.

The lack of documentary evidence from 1430s Milan doesn't bother me, for two reasons: We have very little documentary evidence from Milan even after 1440, and our documentary evidence of cards or card games from anywhere much is very sketchy in the earlier decades. In Ferrara, for example, we hear nothing of Imperatori between 1423 and 1443 (as far as I know), but I don't think that means it wasn't being played there. And we don't have any evidence (again, as far as I know) of Imperatori from any other northern Italian cities in the 1420s or 1430s, but it must surely have been played in at least some of them throughout that entire time.
I like this argument, but I have a few questions. First, when were the clothes on the card in fashion? They are a style made famous by Pisanello ( ... 1k4YR50BqM). They also look similar to those on a wedding cassone which the Victoria and Albert date to 1430-1460 (

Even that broad range is just for the art; the clothes were surely in fashion before then. How long, we have no idea, perhaps decades. And artists can use such clothes as models starting whenever they came into fashion.

Second, why should the "proto-tarot", the model for the CY, be the same as the ur-tarot? Even if clothes made famous by certain artists such as Pisanello enter lesser-known artists' copy books as a result of them (the Pisanello etc. drawings), as models for figures on cards thereafter, the cards before this "proto-tarot" could just have had different clothes.

So I cannot see justification for 1428 as a cut-off date based on clothing. A better reason for c. 1428 would be that Filippo was interested in other paper-based art at that time, i.e. completing the genealogy manuscript. So he can hire artists to do both, perhaps with cards as a kind of preview or sample of how they will do the manuscript.

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