Andrea Vitali's Historical Essays on the Tarot

Summaries of untranslated essays by Andrea Vitali

March 2018 - Jan 15, 2019


By Michael S. Howard


This post is dedicated to summarizing in English those essays as yet untranslated but which Andrea Vitali, president of the Association, wrote and posted in 2018, including additions in 2018 to essays posted in previous years. They include the title and a Google Translate link to their machine-translated version, which is at least good for a general impression. I assume that similar links can be generated in other languages, by putting the full Italian title into Google set for the desired language. Other browsers have their own translation machines, but Google seems the most accurate and readable.


The first on the list is in March. Since I am writing this on Jan. 23, 2019, I am also including summaries of two essays from Jan. 2019 and links to one that now appears in translation.


I would also like to report that as of Sept. 9, 2018, all the iconological essays have now been updated in the original and in translation, along with improvements in the translation of what was there already. There are still improvements that could be made, but for the most part they will have to wait until another time.


March 3, 2018


Ascanio Errante - 1640

Il ragionamento matto di un cane di cognome Tarocco


Ascanio Wanderer - 1640

The crazy reasoning of a dog named Tarocco


Andrea cites an epic poem set in the land of Circe, the sorceress who turned Ulysses' men to animals. One of them has "Tarocco" as his last name. In life had been a loyal companion and also happy-go-lucky, one who was much disposed to laughter. He was turned into a dog and much enjoys that state, inviting Ulysses to do likewise and be his playmate. He argues with Ulysses about the relative advantages of being an animal or a human. He says that in the land of the Cyclops food grew in abundance; there was no need for all the sweat and tools back in Ithaca. Also, for prudence animals are better than men: just look at how the ant stores up for winter and the spider stores food in its web, taking just what it needs. Ulysses says it is just their nature to do these things, and human reasoning, by which alone free choice is possible, is far preferable. Tarocco is convinced and Ulysses is able to get him changed back to a man.  For Andrea it is an example in which "tarocco" has the meaning of "Fool", meaning a person who doesn't think and just does what gives him pleasure.


April 16, 2018


Delle Frascherie, 1651

Uomini donatori e donne avare al gioco delle carte


On Frascherie, 1651

Donor men and avaricious women at card games


The author of interest, Antonio Abati, directs his fire against card playing in mixed company, men with women. He says that women are avaricious and men give them money willingly by gambling, even if the women aren't skillful, just to be in their good graces.  Otherwise, card playing is a waste of time better spent in other ways. On the other hand, its pretend war is better than real war:


“The War in the Game of Cards is even,

Where it is lost, and won sometimes,

Where King, Pages, and Coins assist.

But [if] the Card War is foolish,

From a painted sword to a true sword,

From Point to Point there is a lot of difference”.


April 19, 2018


Trattato del debito del Cavalliero -

Di Pomponio Torelli, Conte di Montechiarugolo


Treatise on the duties of Knights -1596

By Pomponio Torelli, count of Montechiarugolo


This is a treatise warning, among other things, Knights to stay away from card games, especially those involving pure luck, as opposed to the mixture of luck and skill, and then only for pure recreation, except when required by duty to a lord, and never to lend a friend money so as to allow the friend to continue playing, which helps neither the Knight nor the friend.


April 23, 2018


Casa di Dio, Casa del Diavolo

Testimonianze storiche (secc. XVI-XIX)


House of God, House of the Devil

Historical testimonies (16th-19th centuries)


The first tells the story of Joseph, chamberlain of Naples, who convinced the owners of a theatre, thus a house of the devil, to turn it into a home for orphans, a house of God.


The second is about a man attached to making money, who has constant worries and no time to rest, not even on Sundays. How much more pleasant it would be if his house were turned into a House of God rather than the House of the Devil that it is.


The third, 19th century, reflects upon those who use the sermons on Sunday as an occasion for business and lascivious thoughts about the women there. He reminds us of how when Jesus entered the Temple of Jerusalem he saw there a house of robbers, and by driving out the money-changers restored it to being a House of God. It is the same when thieves turn the Church into a House of the Devil.


The fourth is similar, but talks about the "bagatella" sins, the little sins that he assumes God will forgive and so has no need to stop doing. But this is hypocrisy and turns the House of God, in this case the human body and soul, into the House of the Devil.


 May 1, 2018


Dio che ha giocato di resto - 1640

Nella costruzione del mondo e sommamente nel formare la Vergine Maria


God who played the rest - 1640

In the construction of the world and above all in forming the Virgin Mary


This is about the dangerous practice of the "game of the rest," in which people who have lost continue to play in hopes of winning back what they have lost, going "to the mountain", as it was called, staking what the do not have in hopes of getting back what they lost.  They are encouraged to do this by the winners, who leave their winnings on the table, to suggest it is there for the taking. Andrea quotes from one personal story of someone who found himself losing sleep by counting and subtracting cards in his head. By considering the distraught faces of his opponent even if he won, he was able to quit and never gamble again.


A certain sermon used the "game of the rest" to describe the creation of the universe and of the Virgin Mary, by analogy with a story by Pliny in which Mother Nature gives away the gifts of excellences to the various beings and finally plays for "the rest" and gives up the "gem of gems", a precious red jewel full of warmth and energy.  The preacher uses this story to describe God's acts of creation, first the stars, then the moon and the sun, each timeputting on the table something worth much more than he did before.  The impeccability of the angels is next, and finally, he gives "the rest" to create the Virgin Mary.


May 19, 2018


Giuseppe Parini e i Tarocchi

Il ‘Giovin Signore’ nel poemetto ‘Il Mattino, il Mezzogiorno e la Sera’


Giuseppe Parini and the Tarot

The 'Young Gentleman' in the poem 'Morning, Midday and Evening'


This essay focuses on a satirical piece describing, as though prescribing, the life that a young person is supposed to learn to prepare for life, where "libertinism, corruption and licentiousness were considered as virtues." In the morning he has the tedious chore of deciding between chocolate and coffee. Then he is interrupted by the "inappropriate" requests of his workers for payment for the work they have done, French lessons, etc. At lunch with a lady and her bored husband, one participant remembers when the lady's beloved dog bit a servant, and the servant kicked the dog, for which she dismissed him after 20 years of loyal service. In the evening they go to a party where they have to be careful where they are seated, not to be next to inappropriate people. They play the card game with the "barbarous name",  which has "heroes and heroines" (the classical images) but mixes the sacred with the profane, and which requires "an intrepid spirit," but in fact is met with "random assaults."  At the end Andrea gives a brief quotation from another satire inspired by Parini (whom apparently was an excellent player). I notice that anticipating the invitation to play tarocco is announced, an old person comments "that foolish game".


June 1, 2018


Un Tarocco dal Marocco a guisa di Mattacino

Così come descritto in un’opera di Tommaso Buoni del 1605


A Tarocco from Morocco in the manner of a Mattacino

As described in a work of 1605 by Tommaso Buoni


The work of interest is an allegorical play performed for Carnival in 1605 in which the characters are varous parts and passions of the souls of young men. In the fifth act Spinello, representing the concupiscible part, is reading a letter sent from a character named Tartaglia to his friendMortello, servant of Signor Valentino, incarnation of the irascible part. Tartaglia tells Mortello he will bring him from Morroco a “tarocco painted in the face in the manner of a Mattacino,” that is, a jester. Andrea argues that such a gift would be too commonplace in Italy at that time to be meant seriously as a gift, much less from Marocco, a country chosen only because of the rhyme with “tarocco”. In fact Tartaglia, who has earlier spoken of  feeding “morones” “minchione” tea (a word for “fool” etc.) is insinuating that he himself (or perhaps Mortello, I am not sure) is the gift, hence also the jester or buffoon. Andrea draws the conclusion that the word “tarocco” itself does not mean simply “tarot card” but in fact again “fool,” as in many other cases he has found, so that Tartaglia is saying he will bring his friend a fool in the manner of a jester.


June 1, 2018


"L'Epulone" del Frugoni - 1675

Chi non ha il Sole, la Luna o il Mondo in mano resta un Tarocco


"The Glutton" by Frugoni -1675

Those who do not have the Sun, the Moon or the World in their hands remain a Tarocco


This is one of a series of essays concerning the word "tarocco" and cognates in the literature of Italy in past centuries. This one, from a 17th century comedy, is clearly with reference to the game, because of the reference to the Sun, Moon, and World, three powerful cards. The context is a long speech by a buffoon, that is, a stock comic character, who condemns the practice of giving rich gifts so as to procure favors. Those who have, get more. Those who have not, get less. I Whoever does not have the king of Coins is considered as the Knave of Cups – a poor loser, Andrea says. And "anyone who does not have the Sun, the Moon, and the World in their hands remains a tarocco" – tnat is. Andrea says, the Crazy One (Matto) of the Tarot, i.e. a fool.


June 24, 2018


Ludus Chartarum seu Foliorum di Juan Luis Vives

Testo originale latino con traduzione italiana


Ludus Chartarum seu Foliorum by Juan Luis Vives

Original Latin text with Italian translation


This text, "The game of Cards or Folios", is a dialogue about "Spanish Triumphs," i.e. the version of triumphs, of Spanish origin, using the four regular suits, written in Latin by Juan Luis Vives, a friend of Erasmus. Andrea does not give the date it was published, but a work in English, which he footnotes, says it was published in 1538.  It was later translated into Italian, and it is that plus the Latin that Andrea presents. Looking through it, I see no indication of what the rules might be. It is just banter.  


For readers of English, however, there is something else of interest, namely, a version done by Vives' follower Juan Maldonado, with a very informative introduction that reviews or at least mentions several works on card playing mostly in Spain but also in Italy. After the introduction, there follows "The game of Triumphs," in Latin with English translation. Andrea gives the link to an English translation, with the Latin on the opposite page: false


Unlike the Vives' text, this one says quite a bit about the actual conduct of the game.

Besides something of the rules, what is also of interest is the type of banter that goes on among the players, in which they seem to enjoy making classical references.


Aug. 13. 2018


Il giuoco di Tarocchi: un simbolo dell'Humana Vita

Francesco Fulvio Frugoni – 1669


The game of Tarot: a symbol of Human Life

Francesco Fulvio Frugoni – 1669


There are two main sections of special interest, one a quotation from Frugoni, followed by Andrea's comment, and the other one long sentence at the end of the essay. Here is my attempt at a translation. First the quotation from Frugoni:


Frugoni “She [i.e. 'Human life '] is a Game of Tarot, where the whole World is light, and those painted have only that appearance, where the ox prevails with the Lion, Justice goes behind the nudes, Death takes the Magnates, the devil is discovered little, the Fool is always covered [protected?], the fire is great when it rises: where the minor Tarots do not count: he who has the vertical star earns the favor; one who has the silvery moon in his hand does not have a dummy overhead [or, is not stupid in the head: he who has the rays of a golden Sun is not caught by the chill of the stripped; but eventually the game goes awry [a monte], and with a Trumpet orders the collection finished, and the retreat (3).”


Andrea:  From his description, pertaining to both the ludic and the symbolic aspects of the tarot, we find that the card of the World - where the four Evangelists in animal form are depicted, including Luke in the form of an Ox (4) - prevailed over the Strength card; that the card of Justice followed that of the Judgment, where for 'Nudes' the dead are to be understood, which in this state rose from their tombs; that Death killed the Magnates, i.e. the powerful; that the Devil was played as little as possible while the Fool played a very important role in the game; that the fire, or the Tower, when it was played, obtained a good score. The so-called minor arcana were worth little, since the trump cards were represented by the Triumphs, and still the one who owned the Star (5) could certainly expect a good conquest, and the same for those who possessed the silver moon, while those who held in their hand the Sun should not fear losing their clothes, with consequent icing. But then the game was canceled and with the Judgment card where an Angel was depicted playing the Trumpet (6) all the cards were collected and all went home.




4. the four evangelists represented in animal form (Tetramorph) are:


Matthew as a man, a symbol of Christ's incarnation.

Luke as Bull, symbol of the supreme sacrifice of Christ.

Mark as a lion, symbol of the resurrection of Christ (the Physiologus, a work redacted in Alexandrian Egypt, of probably Gnostic environment between the 2nd and 4th century a.d. by an unknown artist, shows that when a lioness gave birth to a dead infant, it was believed that after three days passed the father breathed on the face of the infant, restored it to life).

John as an Eagle, symbol of Christ's Ascension.


5. The-vertical attribute given to this card probably refers to the Platonic concept of the astral origin of souls that are born on Earth. On this see the iconological essay The Star.


There is also the last sentence that Andrea quotes, a very long one, plus his comments:


Fulgoni: “Many, having gained by unjust actions, do nothing but put aside a nice bite (nest egg) for the Wolf, or for relatives. The houses are made with the money won at dice and are lost in the same way, but since the dice are scored (trucccati) and unstable, given that much depends on luck, the same houses are often lost. Someone stopped wearing ragged clothes to wear beautiful one, knowing how to handle the dice and cards: fattened their assets by winning the dice, they found economic tranquility saying go (a word used by the players to say: "I play, I see what the opponents have"), they assumed first-rate social roles by winning prizes (card games), they rose up playing bassetta (card game), they set up their finances with flusso (another card game), they triumphed with trionfetto (10), multiplied their belongings by playing forty (further card game) and playing tarocchi were no longer considered tarocchi, i.e. poor wretches (11).”


Andrea: The last sentence, obviously, does not arise as a celebration of the game and its prerogatives to improve existence: on the contrary, it is an invitation to avoid it. The descriptive form is to be understood then more satirical, denoting the ability of the author to reach the target writing in a way opposite to what would be expected. He concludes, in fact, with these words: "The dice are like pills, because they make you evacuate, and purge the sac [burso, also meaning purse], but not the bile" (12).




10. On the game of trionfetti, read the essay Trionfi, Trionfini and Trionfetti

11. On the meaning of the word tarocchi read the essays Tarocco sta per Matto and The meaning of the word Tarocco.

12 - Francesco Fulvio Frugoni, op. cit., p. 190.


August 18, 2018


Miscellanea Seicentesca

Marchelli - Ricci - Sarpi - Banchieri


17th century miscellany

Marchelli - Ricci - Sarpi – Banchieri


Marchelli has a story that compares the game of Tarocchi to a fight among blind men, each of whom is convinced one of the others received a silver coin from a passer-by, who, however, merely pretended with words to have given it.


Ricci imagines Tasso calling Ariosto a tarocco player who has "a flow behind," [un flusso dietro] which Andrea says was an expression for a way to lose in that game; it seems to be "appresso un matto scacca", i.e. followed by a checkmate ("matto scacca"); I wonder if that might be a pun on "crazy caca".


Sarpi takes aim at some innovators in Venice who wanted to make trade inroads in the ports of the papal states, in conjunction with the Venetian Senate's insistence on bringing certain ecclesiastical crimes under their own jurisdiction. He compares them to a game of tarot: they "pretend that the Venetian Lords found their reasons on Privileges of Pope Alexander, & Emperor, and to destroy it out of purpose they changed their authority, and they mix it like they were those of the Parts [Parti} ( 8 ) of Tarocchi, which at the end are crazy [matto], and trifles [bagatelle] , and games of Hand." Andrea's footnote 8: - In other subsequent texts that mention this passage the word 'Parti' is replaced by 'Cards' [Carte].


Banchieri has a poem called "an invitation to go out and get some air", in which some young people play tarocchi among other games, then take a bath (probably in a river, Andrea says), and get drunk.


Sept. 18, 2018


L'Isola del Giuoco

Dagli “Opuscoli in verso e in prosa” di Filandro Cretense


The Island of Games

From the "Little works in verse and prose" by Filandro Cretense


Here Andrea quotes and paraphrases a long poem describing an imagined dream, in which the dreamer goes to an island in which, after passing through beautiful gardens, he enters a room and meets the "god of games", whose dress, "modeled on the oriental, was composed of multiform cards of Tarocchi, Cucù, Obre [Ombre?] and Tresette." There is much moralizing imagery about the evils of games. He eventually meets two doors, one labeled "Games of Commerce" and the other "Games of Chance." In the area with "games of commerce" he sees people playing "Tarocchi, Picchetto, Tresette, Reversino and Ombre." He sits down and plays a game of Ombre [we know from other essays that this is "Spanish Triumphs", known there as "Hombre," e.g. "Man".] He loses because despite having man good cards, his opponent had all the trumps ["trionfi"].  Then in another area people are playing chess. So it is the usual divisision between games of chance, games of mixed chance and skill, and games of skill, Andrea concludes.


Nov. 11, 2018


La Vergine Parigina - 1661

Opera letteraria di Francesco Fulvio Frugoni


The Parisian Virgin - 1661

Literary work by Francesco Fulvio Frugoni


This is another work by Frugoni, for which he was forced to leave Genoa for Paris. It is the tale of Aurelia, daughter of Hugh Capet, king of France in the 10th century,  revered for her sanctity, but also of Elfreda, evil wife of Edward King of England, who we are told, loved to play tarocchi, the "game of many beasts".  Andrea supposes both the sympathy between her and beastliness and the idea that many of the pictures on the cards were of beasts, notably (I am quoting Andrea) } "the lion in Strength, the dog in the Fool, the eagle in the Empress and Emperor, the horses in the Chariot, the crab in the Moon and the figures in the form of an animal in the card of the World."  Another expression occurring in Frugoni's narrative is that of "the group of the Hanged Man," meaning of of those who would be reckless in the game".


Nov. 22, 2018


La Scala Mistica nel 'Sermo de Ludo'

Un esempio del concetto “Ludendo Intelligo” (Giocando Imparo)


The Mystic Ladder in the 'Sermo de Ludo'

An example of the concept "Ludendo Intelligo" (Playing while learning)


This essay has now been translated into English.


This essay goes through each of the cards as explained in the Sermones de Ludo by the anonymous preacher in the late 15th or early 16th century.  Even though the preacher is against this game, Andrea cites one 16th century religious figure who defended it, Piere Gregoire, who said "Card games were invented, in which, while being played as a game, traces of a certain erudition also appear, as in the Tarot."  There is also the example of Piscina's 1565 Discorso. Andrea starts by explaining the sacredness of the number 22 in several traditions. Then he goes through the cards one by one and explains the religious significance as would have been seen at that time. At the end he gives examples of other religious games.  Google Translate does a fairly good job here, as the language is not archaic.


Nov. 30, 2018


Le Bravure del Capitano Spavento - 1607

Giocando a Primiera con il Tempo, la Fortuna e la Morte


The Bravura of Captain Spavento - 1607

Playing Primiera with Time, Fortune and Death


Andrea begins, "Francesco Andreini (1548-1624) is remembered for having invented and interpreted the figure of Captain Spavento da Vall'Inferna, one of the most famous masks of the Genoese Carnival. He is a military man, proud, ambitious, and boastful". In the particular dialog of interest, the Captain plays the game of Primiero with Death, Time, and Fortune, which of course correspond to three tarot cards. Death wins the first game and wants to withdraw, for fear of losing what he won, but the others won't hear of it. He keeps winning, and the Captain keeps losing, until finally he draws his sword and cuts Death in half. Now, unfortunately, there are two Deaths: natural and violent. The Captain begs Death to put himself back together. The essay is also of interest for a few gaming terms used.


December 2, 2018


Di Fortuna, Et Sorte - 1573

Nelle "Annotationi di diverse Histoire" di Antonino Danti


Of Fortune and Fare - 1573

In the "Annotations on various Histories" by Antonino Danti


From an encyclopedic work, Andrea selects some sayings that Danti repeats about Fortune and Fate, in relation to other things such as riches, time, princes, glory, justice, and other subjects, some related to the tarot, for example, "lightning bolts ruin the tall buildings, and leave the low houses alone".


December 6. 2018


Note allegoriche al Giuoco delle Minchiate

Nel trattato di Francesco Saverio Brunetti - 1747


Allegorical notes on the Game of Minchiate

In the treatise by Francesco Saverio Brunetti – 1747

This essay is now available in English, so no summary is needed.


December 9, 2018


"Argomento in Tarocco" - ampliato il saggio "Uomini contro Donne

I Tarocchi nel Seicento fra Satira e Antisatira"


"Argument in Tarocco" an addition to the essay "Men against Women:

17th century tarot between Satire and Anti-satire",


The addition focuses on the comments of the editor/censor, who displays his misogyny in the course of defending his censorship. What Andrea also finds of interest is his use of the phrase "argumento in Tarocco", which he interprets as meaning "argument about false things", things in the mind, necessary to discuss to make the truth known. So "Tarocco" means means "foolish" just as false gold is "fool's gold", he says.


December 14. 2018


Tarocchi "di nuova invenzione"

Nella 'Piazza Universale' di Tomaso Garzoni da Bagnacavallo – 1585


Tarocchi “of new invention”

In the “Universal Plaza” of Tomaso Garzoni da Bagnacavallo – 1585


This essay has been translated, so no summary is needed.


December 21, 2018


Meglio i tarocchi del Breviario

La concupiscenza dei preti per i tarocchi nell’Ottocento


Better the tarot than the Breviary

The concupiscence of priests for the tarot in the nineteenth century


This essay starts with a newspaper story about a bishop's proposed rules for priests, which leaves out mentioning the playing of tarot by name, instead prohibiting "card games" in general. The writer of the story, critical of clerics, thinks that is because the bishop does not want to prohibit tarot. Also the emphasis was on public playing of games, as opposed to private, which is not much of a prohibition. In passing the writer mentions that a priest once told him, jokingly, that if he had to choose whether to give up the Breviary or the tarot, he would choose to keep the tarot.  The reference to concupiscence is that priests' concupiscence (lust) for the Bagatto was at least equal to the Pope's for the Emperor of Austria (the power then the biggest threat to Italian independence). Andrea then follows with other references to priests and tarot, on the one hand articles by ecclesiastical authorities sharply condemning priests' playing the game, especially seminarians who should confine their games to physical exercise and their minds to studying, and on the other hand numerous references to priests' love of playing tarot in the evening.


December 22, 2018


Andrea Doria e i Tarocchi - 1550

Quando i cannoni tuonavano l’Ammiraglio giocava a Tarocchi


Andrea Doria and the Tarot - 1550

When the cannon thundered the Admiral played tarot


This essay is about the playing of tarot in the military of c. 1550. First is a report that Andrea Dorea, the famous Italian admiral, spent all day in the gallera (bridge, galley?) of his flagship playing tarot, and then went ashore to the villa at night. The reason was that he was leaving an arrogant Spanish commander to his fate. He wanted to attack the Turkish pirates on his own, not under Dorea's command, so Doria let him do it, on land, but did not come to his aid when the campaign ran into trouble. Another example of tarot playing is an incident in the war between the Medici and Charles V on one side and the French and Estense on the other. Francesco d'Este (son of Alfonso d'Este and Lucrezia Borgia) was leading an army that had not been paid for 15 months. The result was that one of his soldiers was easily bribed to put a ladder covered with cloth next to the wall so that the enemy could come in. But the guards noticed it and prevented it. When the soldier was arrested, he was sitting in his tent playing tarot as though nothing had happened.


December 24. 2018


Ampliato il saggio:


Tarocchi e Inquisitori

Nella Serenissima e nel Trentino, fra "Strighe" e "Preti Diabolici"

"Con un'aggiunta sulla proibizioni del gioco in ambito calvinista"


Added to the essay:


Tarot and Inquisitors

In the Serenissima and in Trentino, between ‘Witches’ and ‘Diabolical Priests’”

“With an addition on the prohibitions of games in the Calvinist environment"


The addition quotes a paragraph from an 1857 book in Italian, "Protestantism and all Heresies in their relationship with Socialism," which states that Calvin in Switzerland prohibited all card games, including tarot. (There is no quotation from Calvin to that effect, but it was doubtless true.)  The author said that in Geneva those who continued to violate such provisions were imprisoned, and that crimes such as adultery and blasphemy incurred the death penalty. In the United States and Scotland, the author added. the "blue laws" even stipulated that obstinate and rebellious youths, in violation of its terms, could be put to death.


December 27. 2018


Il Bagattino fra storia e letteratura

La moneta di scarso valore da cui derivò la parola Bagatella


The Bagattino between history and literature

The coin of little value from which the word Bagatella derived


This essay discusses "bagattino" as the word for the smallest denomination of Venetian currency, documented to 1478, but probably in effect since 1300, according to a 1786 study by Guid’Antonio Zanetti. It was of wide diffusion, seen also in Verona and Brescia. The coin existed before then, but was called the "Denaro piccolo".  It also was used in Tuscany, Andrea cites Boccaccio's Decameron, c 1375, 8th day, 9th story.  It is also in the Malmantile Racquistato by Lorenzo Lippi (died 1664), in the course of describing a Minchiate game. It also appears in Morgante Maggiore, by another Florentine, Luigi Pulci (1432-1484). It also appears in La Cofaneria, a work by Francesco d'Ambra (Florence 1499 - Rome, 1558), as well as his Banchetto de 'mal cibati. Andrea cites the passages in question.


Jan. 3, 2019


Taroco Satiro - 1605

L’attributo di falso a un tempio pagano


Taroco Satiro-1605

The attribute of false in a pagan temple


(in this case you have to scroll down to the essay in the list on the left and click on the title)


In 1605 Andrea Cittadella, wrote a Description of Padoa and its territory. In it he uses the phrase "Taroco Satiro" in the course of referring to an ancient theatre used for games involving gladiators and animals, as well as plays. He says that the site (now the Prato della Valle, the largest square of Padua, south of the center) should be distinguished from the "taroco satiro". The question is, what is that second site, and what does "taroco" mean here? The first site was excavated and found to have the remains of a large ampitheater, semicircular, 50 meters in diameter. The other, apparently near the Arena, north of the town center, seems to have been smaller and used for prayers and singing by pagans, who were called "satyrs" by the early Church. If so the "Toroco Satira" was the "inferior satyr', or place for satyrs, which Andrea decides is the same as "false" satyr, and a "satyr for fools," considering that the Church considered pagans to be fools.


Jan. 5, 2019


La Favola della Papessa Giovanna

“Perchè vi è il papa vi debbe anco essere la papessa”


The Story of the Popess Joan

"Because there is the pope, there must also be the popess"


Here Andrea says that the "Pope Joan" legend was promoted by a book published in 1492 that had this story among those of other "famous and elect women.” He shows us an illustration from that book rather like that of the so-called "Marseille" tarot, which he says (without citation; I suppose he is thinking of the cards found in the Sforza Castle) was really designed in 16th century Milan and produced in Marseille after getting permission from the Milanese manufacturers. That the card referred to Pope Joan was believed by some, for example Aretino, as Andrea has shown in another essay. Already in the 17th and 18th centuries it was denounced as a malicious fable promoted by Protestants and "even believed on the other side of the Alps," as one 18th century poem puts it. He then quotes a paragraph from an 1849 account of the tarot subjects The avowed position is that the tarot subjects are perfectly orthodox, even the Popess, because the Bible says "male and female he made them," so if there is a pope there must be a popess. Andrea ends by saying today we know that the figure represents the faith, which is the first requirement in ascending the mystical ladder to a vision of God, as Aquinas affirmed.


January 13, 2019


Un Re da Tarochi – 1584

Un Re senza senno nelle lingue volgari italiane del Cinquecento


A King of Tarochi - 1584

A King without sense in the Italian vernaculars of the 16th century


This essay is now translated at the above link.