This is a discussion of the evidence for dating the tarocchi appropriati work entitled Motti alle signore di Pavia sotto il titolo de i Tarocchi, sometimes called “the Susio poem” after Giovan Battista Susio, who was for some time believed to be its author, although this has now been disproven. For transcripts and some images of the manuscript, see Mike’s post here: viewtopic.php?p=23758#p23758
Bibliography of works mentioned below:
Bianchi, Dante. “G.B. Susio e le dame pavesi del sec. XVI.” Bollettino della Società pavese di storia patria 15, no. 1 (1963): 89-94.
Cordone, Lina. “A proposito di Rime ed Imprese dedicate a dame pavesi del secolo XVI.” Bollettino della Società pavese di storia patria 22, nos. 3-4 (1922): 189-191. This is viewable at Hathi Trust.
Marsilli, Pietro. “I Tarocchi nella vita di società, la vita di società nei Tarocchi.” In Le carte di corte. I Tarocchi. Gioco e magia alla corte degli Estensi, edited by Giordano Berti and Andrea Vitali, 95–110. Bologna: Nuova Alfa Editoriale, 1987.
Pratesi, Franco. “Addenda.” L'As de Trèfle 49 (1992): 2.
Renier, Rodolfo. “Tarocchi di Matteo Maria Boiardo.” In Il Libro Ritrovato, edited by Clara Allasia, Laura Nay, Alessandro Vitale Brovarone, and Chiara Tavella, 63–81. Turin: Università degli
Studi di Torino, 2018.
Sorbelli, Albano. “Rime inedite di Gio. Batt. Susio della Mirandola.” L'Indicatore Mirandolese 2 (1901): 9 ff., and reprinted in Atti e Memorie della Società storica, letteraria ed artistica della Mirandola 2 (1903): 29-40.
Toldo, Pietro and Pietro Moiraghi, “Rime ed imprese dedicate alle dame pavese del sec. XVI.” Memorie e documenti per la storia di Pavia e suo principato 2, no. 3 (October 1897): 37-75.
The poem is not dated in the manuscript. Pietro Moiraghi dated it to 1525 to 1540, which Pietro Marsilli followed, and others have dated it to around 1570, but neither of those date ranges are consistent with the available evidence.
Two other works survive that are closely related to this poem. One of these immediately precedes it in the Paris manuscript, under the title Rime et imprese donate alle gentildonne de Pavia la pasqua di genaio sotto 'l nome de gli Indonati, composte da messer Giovan Battista Susio dalla Mirandola, che tra loro l'Invogliato s'appella. Unlike the Motti work, this one appears to have been genuinely written by Susio, but likewise bears no date. Franco Pratesi helpfully included it in his transcription and it can be viewed there, and it is also included the Toldo-Moiraghi and Sorbelli transcriptions (although I have not seen the latter). There is another, defective copy of this work in the Biblioteca Trivulziana in Milan, which omits more than a third of it and contains various errors; it is transcribed in Studi in onore di Alberto Chiari, volume 1 (Brescia: Paideia, 1973), pp. 210-11.
The other work is an anonymous poem in a manuscript in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan (MS. O 129 sup., u.c. 15, ff. 36r-38r). It has not yet been made available online in digital form by that library, but it was transcribed in full by Lina Cordone in her article cited above. It is called Poesie donate alle signore di Pavia nell'Epifania del 1543 and as the title indicates, it dates from Epiphany (January 6), 1543. I will refer to the three works as the Motti, the Rime, and the Poesie, respectively.
All three works are evidently closely related. They all have the same basic structure, each being a list of about two dozen Pavian ladies, each of whom receives a stanza of poetic tribute, preceded by a brief dedication: e.g. “Alla signora Alda Lonata” (in the Motti and the Rime), “Alla leggiadra et vertuosissima Alda Lonata” (in the Poesie). Several of the women appear in more than one of the works, and five or six of them appear in all three (see the table below). The Motti and the Poesie are especially similar.
Another interesting similiarity is that both the Rime and the Poesie were written for the occasion of Epiphany, because that is what “pasqua di genaio” means in the title of the Rime. It seems we are dealing with a kind of annual poetic tradition. It is therefore possible that the Motti were also written for an Epiphany, and it is extremely likely that all three works were written within a few years of each other.
Cordone believed, largely on the basis of Moiraghi’s dating of the Motti and Rime, that the Motti were the earliest of the three and had inspired the Poesie, which was then followed by the Rime (p. 191). She was probably right. The Poesie have a very similar structure to the Motti, but the Motti dedications have simpler and less uniform wording—it looks like their structure was “tidied up” in the Poesie. A much more striking difference is that the Poesie do not make use of the tarocchi: They are simply a series of brief verses in praise of the ladies, without ranking them in any way or associating them with any metaphorical subject. This was possibly motivated by a desire to eliminate the competitive aspect of the tarocchi appropriati ranking—and it is considerably easier to imagine this little poetic tradition being initially inspired by the widespread fashion for tarocchi appropriati, and then people deciding to remove that competitive aspect, rather than the reverse. This hypothesis is reinforced by the numbers of individuals mentioned: 22 in the Motti (with each of the 21 trumps dedicated to a lady and the Fool to the author) and 22 ladies in the Poesie, while the Rime expanded the number to include 29. The fact that 22 ladies are honored in the Poesie, not 21 as in the Motti, suggests that the Poesie were preceded by at least one other tarocchi appropriati poem which followed the more frequent practice of assigning the Fool to a lady as well.
So it looks like the Poesie were based very closely on the Motti and probably also another, very similar tarocchi appropriati poem from around the same time, but the author removed the competitive tarocchi ranking and tidied up the dedications. The Rime, by contrast, moved further away from the Motti model. The same basic idea of a poetic tribute to a selected group of ladies is still there, but the number of ladies has been enlarged even more, and the genre of the work is now markedly different: The Rime assign to each lady not a tarot trump, but rather an impresa, a heraldic device, complete with motto. This was another fairly popular practice at the time, like the tarocchi appropriati. It usually involved making an actual drawing or painting of each impresa, and such images do indeed seem to have accompanied the text of the Rime when it was originally presented. Only one of these impresa drawings has been preserved in the surviving manuscript copy, namely the one for Bianca Bottigella; on the pages for the other ladies, there is simply a large blank space where the impresa would have been in the original. But the motto that was written around each impresa is still given at the top of every page (the motto is, in each case, the first line of the stanza below).
The page for Bianca Bottigella in the Rime manuscript
Of course, these imprese perform the same kind of metaphorical function as the tarot trumps: They use an emblematic subject to describe the character of each of the ladies. The Rime therefore look like they too took inspiration from the tarocchi appropriati model. The imprese even include some of the same subjects as the tarot cards, such as the moon, the sun, a bolt of lightning, a chariot, and Cupid. So, like the Poesie, the Rime look like they came after and were partly inspired by poems like the Motti. What may have happened here is that people regretted the loss of the emblematic element in the Poesie, so they wanted to restore it in the Rime, while still keeping the competitive tarocchi appropriati aspect out of it.
It should also be noted that Susio was born in 1519, so he was more likely to be writing something like the Rime after the Poesie of 1543 than before.