The concept of Fortune in the birth of the tarot
Frost, J. 2019. The concept of Fortune in the birth of the tarot. in: Paraskos, M. and Chick, J. (ed.) Othello's Island 1: Selected Proceedings from Othello's Island: the Annual Conference of Medieval and Early Modern Studies Mitcham The Orage Press. pp. 73-99
|Editors||Paraskos, M. and Chick, J.|
The pack of cards now known as the tarot or tarocchi emerged in Northern Italy around the mid 15th century. This paper considers the traditional iconography of the ‘Fortune’ card in relation to medieval cultural history. The image of Fortune’s Wheel is present in some of the earliest gilded packs by the Cremonese workshop of Bonifacio Bembo. The iconography draws upon the familiar representation of the Latin goddess Fortuna found in the medieval manuscript tradition, notably the Carmina Burana. This folio reflects the late medieval world from which the tarot was born; a world where the high culture of scholastic learning mingled with the crudity of the tavern. Other key influences include the writings of Boethius and Petrarch. The Milanese court, which commissioned these packs, would have fostered such learning at the University and extensive library of Pavia where Bembo worked as a fresco painter.
The image of Fortune stands out as a central guiding principle in both the uses and cosmology of the pack. Its central place in the sequence of tarot trumps reflects its role in the allegorical struggle between virtue and vice. Fortuna presides over the earliest documented use of the cards as a game and later a divinatory device. The gambling table was the domain of the goddess, whose power never seemed to wane through the Christian middle ages and whose rituals are performed today in the modern casino and also the fortune tellers’ booth. Despite the transformation of the pack from exoteric to esoteric meaning and use since the Renaissance, the image and concept of Fortune has remained surprisingly persistent.
|Keywords||Tarot; Renaissance; Fortune; Medieval; Carmina Burana; Tarocchi|
|Book title||Othello's Island 1: Selected Proceedings from Othello's Island: the Annual Conference of Medieval and Early Modern Studies|
|Publisher||The Orage Press|
|Place of publication||Mitcham|
|01 Aug 2019|
|Publication process dates|
|Deposited||20 Jan 2020|
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