Thread: V.T. on Conver
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Ross G Caldwell  Ross G Caldwell is offline
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Ross G Caldwell 

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V.T. on Conver Chariot

Veuve Toulon

Robert Swiryn asked -
by the way, does anyone know what the initials V.T. on teh chariot's shield stand for in the conver deck?

Gérard van Rijnberk, in Le Tarot. Histoire, iconographie, ésoterisme (Lyon, Paul Derain, 1947; facsimile reprint, Guy Trédaniel, 1981), p. 82, note 14, accidentally gives us a plausible solution to the initials V.T.

“Il faut avertir ici le lecteur de ne pas se perdre en vaines recherches sur la signification des lettres majuscules qu’on trouve dans beaucoup de jeux de Tarot sur l’écusson du Chariot. Sur cette carte, dans le jeu dont s’est servi Court de Gébelin, on lit : V.T. ; avec quelque fantasie, on serait tenté d’interpréter ces deux lettres ainsi : Victor Templarius, ou quelque chose semblable ! En réalité, cet écusson sert souvent aux fabricants de cartes pour y mettre leurs initiales ! Ainsi, on trouve sur un jeu édité en 1783 par Rochas Schaer, à Mumliswil, en Alsace, les lettres R.S. Dans le cas cité plus haut, V.T. peut signifier Veuve Toulon, fabrique de cartes ayant existé à Marseille de 1750 à 1755”.

(Here the reader must be warned not to get lost in futile research for the meaning of the capital letters that are found in many Tarots on the shield of the Chariot. On this card, in the deck used by Court de Gébelin, we read: V.T.; with some whimsy, one might be tempted to interpret these two letters thus: Victor Templarius, or something similar! In reality, this shield was often used by cardmakers to put their initials on! For instance, one finds on a deck published in 1783 by Rochas Schaer, in Mumliswil, Alsace, the letters R.S. In the case cited above, V.T. could indicate Veuve Toulon [the Widow Toulon], a cardmaker existing in Marseille from 1750-1755.)

I say “accidentally” because Court de Gébelin’s Chariot shows no initials at all. Where did van Rijnberk get this idea? Clearly he was reading some other source than Court de Gébelin himself, or at least a copy of Court de Gébelin which used illustrations from Conver or some other deck with V.T. on the Chariot.

Illustration of the Chariot from 'Le monde primitif', volume VIII (1781), plate 4

Henry René D’Allemagne, vol. 2, knows Veuve Toulon, and gives her first name, Françoise; she was widow of Jean Toulon, and by D'Allemagne's list she is known from 1750 to 1755. The title “Veuve so-and-so” is of course used when the lady is of high social standing, and was often given to a business if she inherited it from her husband and made it prosper; the best known in English might be the popular champagne Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin (normally referred to as just “Veuve Clicquot”), named after Barbe-Nicole Clicquot (née Ponsardin), widow of François Clicquot who died in 1805.

P. 316, Joseph Isnard buys the office of inspector and controller of cardmakers from the Veuve Toulon, in 1755. She was the widow of Jean Toulon, who died on January 15, 1755.

P. 520 shows she was receiving a pension from the community of cardmakers in Marseille in 1753, and was already styled “veuve”.

This apparent contradiction doesn’t concern us; what does concern us is that the hectic business of the cardmaking industry in Marseille could have allowed that Nicolas Conver ended up with plates that had been sold under the name of Veuve Toulon. He then put his own name on the 2 of Deniers.

(Nicolas Conver is attested 1760-1803; his widow continued the business as Veuve Conver, attested in 1807).
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