The World: Concerning the Iconography of the Twenty-First Trump Cards of the “Tarot de Marseille” Patterns

Introduction

The International Playing-Card Society currently differentiate between two Tarot de Marseille patterns, namely, pattern sheet 1 and pattern sheet 2.

For the purposes of the present article, I consider the following versions of pattern sheet 1: a version by Jean Noblet (circa 1659 [1]), a version by Jean-Pierre Payen (1713 [2]), and a version by Jean Dodal (circa 1701 to 1715 [3]).

Concerning pattern sheet 2, I consider the following versions, which may be sufficiently representative of the general iconography of the said pattern sheet: a version by Pierre Madenié (1709 [4]), a version by François-Henri (1718 [5]), a version by François Chosson (1736 [6]), a version by Jean-Baptiste Madenié (1739 [7]), a version by François Tourcaty (1745 [8]), a version by Rochus Schär (1750 [9]), a version by Claude Burdel (1751 [10]), a version by Nicolas Conver (1760 [11]), a version by Jacques Rochias (1782 [12]), a version by Arnoux & Amphoux (1793 [13]), and a version by Bernardin Suzanne (circa 1816 to 1868 [14]).

In describing the general iconography of the twenty-first trump cards of the aforesaid pattern sheets, I reference the current earliest known version of pattern sheet 1, which is the version by Jean Noblet (1659), and the current earliest known version of pattern sheet 2, which is the version by Pierre Madenié (1709).

[Note: images of the twenty-one trump cards of each of the versions of pattern sheet 2 that I list above are currently available for online viewing at http://www.tarot-de-marseille-heritage.com/english/historic_tarots_gallery.html .]

 

Part 1: Descriptions

Iconography - The World (Pattern Sheets 1 and 2) (Figures 1-5) (Diary of a Fortune-Teller)

 

1. Pattern Sheet 1: Jean Noblet

In figure 1, a female figure, who would be nude save the cape that she wears and the garland that conceals her genitals, holds in her left hand a sceptre and in her right hand an object that could be described as resembling the head of a spear.

The female figure, who looks to the left, is surrounded by a mandorla-like structure that comprises leaves and that is surrounded by four figures that are each depicted as having a halo: at the bottom left of the image is depicted an ox whose head is orientated towards the left, at the top left of the image is depicted a winged human figure whose head is orientated towards the viewer, at the top right of the image is depicted an eagle whose head is orientated towards the right, and at the bottom right of the image is depicted a lion whose head is orientated towards the viewer.

 

1.1.1. Some Iconographic Differences Between Versions of Pattern Sheet 1

1.1.1.1. In the Version by Jean-Pierre Payen (1713):

1.1.1.1.1. The human figure appears to be rendered as being male (an examination of the fifteenth and the seventeenth trump cards of the present version suggests that the relevant artist or artists are in the habit of depicting clearly the breasts of female figures).

1.1.1.1.2. The head of the winged human figure is orientated towards the right.

 

1.1.1.2. In the Version by Jean Dodal (circa 1701 to 1715):

1.1.1.2.1. The human figure appears to be rendered as being male (an examination of the fifteenth and the seventeenth trump cards of the present version suggest that the relevant artist or artists are in the habit of depicting clearly the breasts of female figures).

1.1.1.2.2. The object that the aforesaid figure holds in his left hand could be described as resembling a short blade.

1.1.1.2.3. The head of the winged human figure is orientated towards the right.

 

1.2. Pattern Sheet 2: Pierre Madenié

In figure 2, a female figure, who would be nude save for the scarf or the shawl that is draped over her left shoulder and that conceals her genitals, holds in each hand a sceptre as she balances on her right leg.

The female figure, who looks to the left, is surrounded by a mandorla-like structure that comprises leaves and that is surrounded by four figures that are each depicted as having a halo: at the bottom left of the image is depicted an ox whose head is orientated towards the left, at the top left of the image is depicted a winged human figure whose head is orientated towards the right, at the top right of the image is depicted an eagle whose head is orientated towards the right, and at the bottom right of the image is depicted a lion whose head is orientated towards the viewer.

 

1.2.1. Some Iconographic Differences Between Versions of Pattern Sheet 2

1.2.1.1. In the Versions by François-Henri (1718), by Nicolas Conver (1760), by François Tourcaty (1745), and by Arnoux & Amphoux (1793):

1.2.1.1.1. The object that the female figure holds in her right hand is not easily identified.

 

1.2.1.2. In the Version by François Chosson (1736):

1.2.1.2.1. The object that the female figure holds in her right hand could be described as resembling the head of a spear.

 

1.2.1.3. In the Version by Bernadin Suzanne (1839):

1.2.1.3.1. The head of the winged human figure is orientated more towards the viewer.

1.2.1.3.2. The head of the lion is orientated slightly towards the right.

 

Part 2: Interpretations

2.1 Concerning the General Iconography

The general iconography of the twenty-first trump cards of patterns sheets 1 and 2 could be explained as a variation of an iconographic type that is designated Christ in Majesty.

In figure 3, which is a scan of an illustration that is dated circa 1170 [15], Christ is surrounded by a mandorla as he sits on an arc.

Surrounding the mandorla are the following figures, which I list clockwise: directly below the feet of Christ is depicted a reference to Matthew; following the reference to Matthew is depicted a representation of Moses; following the representation of Moses is depicted a lion in reference to Mark; following the reference to Mark is depicted a representation of Baruch; following the representation of Baruch is depicted an eagle in reference to John; following the reference to John is depicted a representation of Jeremiah; following the representation of Jeremiah is depicted an ox in reference to Lucas; following the reference to Lucas is depicted a representation of Daniel.

In figure 4, which is a scan of an illustration that is dated circa 1460 [16], Christ is surrounded by a mandorla as he sits on an arc while resting his feet on a globe.

 

2.2 Concerning the Male Figure

Assuming that the depiction of a male figure in the iconography of the relevant versions of pattern sheet 1 is not the result of an error, the said figure could be identified as a representation of Christ or as a reference to Christ.

 

2.3. Concerning the Female Figure

The identity of the female figure that features in the iconography of the relevant version of pattern sheet 1 and in the iconography of the relevant versions of pattern sheet 2 may be confirmed by the iconography of the corresponding trump cards of certain versions of the later Tarocco Piemontese pattern, to which the International Playing-Card Society assign the designation pattern sheet 4 [17].

In figure 5, which is a scan of the twenty-first trump card of a version of pattern sheet 4 that is thought to have been produced circa 1888 [18], the female figure, who is depicted as having a crescent moon resting on her head, could be identified as a representation of Diana, who is described as being not only a goddess of the earth, of birth, and of hunting, but also of the moon [19].

 

2.4. Concerning the Head of a Spear

The depiction of the head of a spear could be explained as a reference to the goddess Diana who, as a goddess of hunting, may be depicted as wielding a bow or a spear [20].

In addition to serving as a reference to Diana, the depiction of the head of a spear could be explained as a reference to Christ, who is said to have been pierced in the side with a spear, as is described, for example, in the book of John.

John 19, verse 34: “Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.” [New Revised Standard Version.]

 

2.5. Concerning the Significance of a Representation of the Goddess Diana

Since Diana is described as being both a goddess of the earth and of the moon, a representation of Diana could be explained as a personification of the Earth, of the heavens, or of both.

 

2.6. Concerning the Sceptre or Sceptres

The sceptre or sceptres are easily explained as symbols of authority.

 

Part 3: in Summary

3.1. The general iconography of the twenty-first trump cards of patterns sheets 1 and 2 could be explained as a variation of an iconographic type that is designated Christ in Majesty.

3.2. The male figure that features in the iconography of the relevant versions of pattern sheet 1 could be identified as a representation of Christ or as a reference to Christ.

3.3. The female figure that features in the iconography of the relevant version of pattern sheet 1 and in the iconography of the relevant versions of pattern sheet 2 could be identified as a representation of the goddess Diana.

3.4. The depiction of the head of a spear could be explained as a reference to both Diana and Christ.

3.5. A representation of the goddess Diana could be explained as a personification of the Earth, of the heavens, or of both.

3.6. The sceptre or sceptres are easily explained as symbols of authority.

 

References:

1. Jeu de tarot à enseignes italiennes dit “tarot Noblet”. URL: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b105109641.item. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

2. Tarot From [sic.] Jean-Pierre Payen. URL: https://www.tarot-de-marseille-heritage.com/english/catalogue_payen1713.html. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

3. Jeu de tarot de Marseille destiné à l’exportation. URL: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b10537343h.item. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

4. Tarot From [sic.] Pierre Madenié. URL: https://www.tarot-de-marseille-heritage.com/english/catalogue_madenie1709.html. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

5. Tarot From [sic.] François Henri. URL: https://www.tarot-de-marseille-heritage.com/english/catalogue_heri1718.html. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

6. Tarot From [sic.] François Chosson. URL: https://www.tarot-de-marseille-heritage.com/english/catalogue_chosson1736.html. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

7. Tarot From [sic.] Jean-Baptiste Madenié. URL: https://www.tarot-de-marseille-heritage.com/english/historic_tarots_gallery.html. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

8. Tarot From [sic.] François Tourcaty. URL: https://www.tarot-de-marseille-heritage.com/english/historic_tarots_gallery.html. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

9. Tarot From [sic.] Rochus Schär. URL: https://www.tarot-de-marseille-heritage.com/english/historic_tarots_gallery.html. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

10. Tarot From [sic.] Claude Burdel. URL: https://www.tarot-de-marseille-heritage.com/english/historic_tarots_gallery.html. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

11. Tarot From [sic.] Nicolas Conver. URL: https://www.tarot-de-marseille-heritage.com/english/historic_tarots_gallery.html. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

12. Tarot From [sic.] Jacques Rochias. URL: https://www.tarot-de-marseille-heritage.com/english/historic_tarots_gallery.html. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

13. Tarot From [sic.] Arnoux & Amphoux. URL: https://www.tarot-de-marseille-heritage.com/english/historic_tarots_gallery.html. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

14. Jeu de tarot à enseignes italiennes, dit “de Marseille”. URL: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b10539486k.item. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

15. Christ in Majesty. URL: https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/105399/unknown-maker-christ-in-majesty-german-probably-1170s/. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

16. Christ in Majesty. URL: https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/133040/antoine-de-lonhy-christ-in-majesty-french-about-1460/. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

17. Pattern sheet 4. URL: https://i-p-c-s.org/pattern/ps-4.html. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

18. Jeu de tarot à deux têtes et à enseignes italiennes: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b105203375/f89.item.r=jeu%20de%20cartes%20tarot. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

19. Earls, Irene (1987). Renaissance Art: A Topical Dictionary. Westport, CT 06881: Greenwood Press. Page 88. ISBN 0-313-24658-0.

20. Earls, Irene (1987). Renaissance Art: A Topical Dictionary. Westport, CT 06881: Greenwood Press. Page 88. ISBN 0-313-24658-0.

 

Images:

1. Figure 1: Jeu de tarot à enseignes italiennes dit “tarot Noblet”. BNF Gallica. URL: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b105109641.item. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

2. Figure 2: Tarot cards by Pierre Madenié. Tarot de Marseille Heritage. URL: https://www.tarot-de-marseille-heritage.com/english/historic_tarots_gallery.html. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

3. Figure 3: Christ in Majesty. J Paul Getty Trust. URL: https://www,getty.edu/art/collection/objects/105399/unknown-maker-christ-in-majesty-german-probably-1170s/. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

4. Figure 4: Christ in Majesty. J Paul Getty Trust. URL: URL: https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/133040/antoine-de-lonhy-christ-in-majesty-french-about-1460/. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

5. Figure 5: Jeu de tarot à deux têtes et à enseignes italiennes. BNF Gallica. URL: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b105203375/f89.item.r=jeu%20de%20cartes%20tarot. Retrieved 2 March 2020.

 

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