Join Date: 02 Jul 2003
Marolles' Tarot Card Ballet of 1657
Recently in the Petit Oracle thread I wrote about a Tarot Card Ballet from Marolles in 1657. As this is somehow of importance for some details of the time 1643-1660 (development of the Poilly deck), see ...
I wrote there ...
Marolles is not a "nobody" in matters of Tarot. Already his father played Tarot, Marolles describes himself as "not so enthusiastic" about the game (1657, in his autobiography). But he describes a scene, in which a Gonzaga-Nevers princess gave him the commission to write something about the Tarot rules, and this in the sense, that these rules would be better than those played elsewhere. As I understood it, these rules were published also 1655, but the "commission" was given in the year 1637. These are running as "the first written rules of Tarot", although there are some indications, that also earlier some information was given by others.
In his autobiography 1657 (which contains the information about his Tarot playing father and the activities of the Gonzaga Nevers princess) I found the description of a ballet, and in the description Tarot cards have a fight with usual French playing cards !!!!!!. And the usual playing cards take the better part of it.
Well, it's not clear if this ballet proposal of Marolles ever became a real ballet (as I understand it). It seems to have been just a "suggestion".
Depaulis should have seen this text (the autobiography), but I didn't found any note about the ballet from him (though I really can't say, that I've read all and everything from him).
I assume (for the moment), that this ballet was overlooked.
Well ... it's a crucial element, as it somehow presents evidence of an antipathy against Tarot cards at the French court in the time, when the young King Louis XIV prepared to become a ruling monarch. What Depaulis and Dummett found and reported is the negative mirror, that Tarot cards seem to disappear as a popular game around 1660.
Well, Marolles became a further factor, cause he was an engraving collector. He later sold his collection to the French king and it became the basis for a royal collection, which later became a very important public collection, which included - as a rather special part - also the Vievil deck and the Noblet. Probability seems to indicate, that these were already part of the Marolles collection, so likely we have to assume, that ... without Marolles we wouldn't know about the Vievil and Noblet.
I wrote elsewhere about the Ballet some times ago:
The following pages appear in
Memoires: Avec Des Notes Historiques Et Critiques, Volume 3 (1657)
by Michel de Marolles
My not perfect abilities with French language have difficulties to recognize, what this is. So, any reflection on it is helpful. I've the imagination, that this is only a ballet proposal, which never was realized. But I might err ...
In the second "Dessein" (totally there are 4 of them) the cards of Tarot play a great role. From the trumps only World, Fool and Bateleur appear, which means only those trumps, which have points in the game. Further the Kings appear with their queens, then the chevaliers with their valets (which also have points in the game). The suit signs are those of the Italian Tarots.
But then appear also playing cards with French suits and there is a battle in small dimensions between the Valets of the both groups. Then it seems, that World, Fou and Bateleur give a sort of judgment, and then the next "Dessein" starts. Or they look only the show of the others.
I really don't know, what this battle shall mean. I get the suspicion, that this shall present a negative result against the Tarot cards and a win of the French suits.
Tarot history is judged by Depaulis and Dummett, that Tarot in France got a downfall in interest in the game of Tarot. Is this indicated also in this ballet, which seems to express the desire to have own national symbols on the cards and not from foreign countries? We had two Italian queens on French throne and this likely promoted the Italian in France. But what happened, when Louis XIII got his well known conflicts with his mother Maria de Medici? And later this earlier French-Italian phase finished with the Gonzagas leaving France?
Marolles is assumed to have arranged the first French Tarocchi rules, printed in Nevers 1637.
Ballet du tems
(Ballet about "Time" symbols?)
Pour le Ballet des Armoiries, où se trouve compris celui des Cartes & des Tarots
(Ballet about Heraldic ? and playing cards (also Tarot))
Du Ballet des Emblémes & des Hierglyphics
(a show about Egyptian symbols)
Ballet des Muses
(a ballet of the Muses)
Then a Finish of the Discourse and a report, what will happen in the next.
It's proceeded in the next post ...
"getting it home to the writing desk"