Anonymous parisian tarot - a new interpretation


Recently jtdemers was asking in another thread which sense could be given to the minors of this mysterious deck and was referring to a thread on discussing the heraldry on the pentacles cards.

All the members seemed to take for granted the arguments advanced by a certain M. Popoff in the well known M. Depaulis' booklet "Tarot, jeu et magie" from 1985. I disagree with several of his assignments hence this thread.

Let's begin with the 4 of pentacles :

Anonyme 4d by PhilBeDaN, sur Flickr

From the upper left to lower right & according to M. Popoff (taken up by Stuart Kaplan in the second volume of his encyclopedia) : 1-Dauphiné 2-Gian Galeazzo Visconti (Milan-Visconti) 3-Bretagne 4-Artois.

Here I disagree with 2 & 4 and I would like to advance a new explanation which has the advantage of linking the 4 coats of arms together.

Dauphiné is the privilege of the heir of the kingdom, also called Dauphin. It happens that François 1er (1494-1547) had 3 sons :

The elder, his favorite, François de France, le Dauphin, was Duc de Bretagne (Duke of Brittany, stoat arms in 3). He died in Tournon (Ardèche) in 1536.

The following son was Henri (future Henri II 1519-1559) Duc d'Orléans. It's Orléans and not Artois that is shown in 4 :

Orléans by PhilBeDaN, sur Flickr

The youngest son was Charles d'Angoulême 1522-1545. Here is the blazon (in french sorry) : before 1536 "Écartelé aux I et IV d'azur à trois fleurs de lys d'or au lambel d'argent chargé de trois croissants de gueules, aux II et III d'argent à la guivre d'azur couronnée d'or issante de carnation"; after 1536 "Écartelé aux I et IV d'azur à trois fleurs de lys d'or au lambel d'argent, aux II et III d'argent à la guivre d'azur couronnée d'or hissante de carnation"

Charles avt 1536 by PhilBeDaN, sur Flickr
Charles ap 1536 by PhilBeDaN, sur Flickr

Zooming in the card, the label (lambel in french) is clearly visible :

lambel by PhilBeDaN, sur Flickr

It's Charles and not Gian Galeazzo Visconti that the 2nd coat of arms represent.

Of course the three brothers were TWICE the descendants of Valentina Visconti :

1- Via Charles d'Orléans the great poet for a long time prisoner in London, Louis XII and their mother
2- Via Jean d'Orléans brother of the preceding Charles, Charles d'Angoulême 1459-1496 and their father

It must be noted that only Henri II united in himself the 4 titles as well as their coats of arms represented on the card : d'Angoulême by birth, d'Orléans as he is the second son, Dauphin and Duc de Bretagne when his elder dies in 1536.


Excellent Philippe! Looks good to me, looking forward to the rest of your suggested corrections!

For others ease of reference:


D 2:
I: Gonzaga, Dukes of Mantua
2: Strozzi
D 3:

1: Scotland:
2: Portugal
3: Évreux-Navarre (the districts are inverted)
D 4:

I: Dauphin of Viennois (coat of arms carried for the first time by the future Charles V, following the treatise of Romans of 30 March 1349)
2: Milan-Visconti (coat of arms appearing under Louis XII)
3: Brittany
4: Artois? (The beadles of the label must be a misinterpretation of the castles of Castile)
D 5:
(all ecus are bypassed):
I: Paris:
2: Vendôme-La Marche:
3: Lyon:
4: Normandy:
5: Toulouse
D 6:
Ecclesiastical Pairs of the Kingdom:
1: Reims:
2: Langres:
3: Laon (the cross is omitted):
4: Chalons
5: Noyon
6: Beauvais
D 7:
This series tries to represent the lay couples of the kingdom (the crowns are bypassed)
1: Aquitaine
2: Burgundy
3: Champagne
4: Bourbon
5: Flanders
6: Alençon
7: France (formerly)
D 8:
(the coat of arms of this card are bypassed):
1: France (or Anjou?)
2: Évreux (branch of Lérin?)
3: Orleans
4: Bourbon
5: France
6: Foix-Béarn
7: unidentified (coats of arms of this kind are found in Italy)
8: Brabant
D 9:

I: figure of Diane de Poitiers
2: Lithuania
3: Savoie? (Coat of Arms with difficult identifiable cross)
4: anchored cross (furniture too frequent for an attributed power)
5: poor representation (contour-née) of the Austria-Coucy party?
6: two lions confronted (many families throughout Europe bear such coats of arms)
7: three merlettes or cans (same remark)
8: three bands (same remark)
9: six bezants or cakes (same remark)

I: figure of Henry II
2: Pressigny (Little Family of Poitou, weapons are given in all treatises of heraldry, from the Middle Ages to the present day, because of the complexity of the blazon. They were copied in a treatise of heraldry by an engraver having, On the other hand, little knowledge in this field)
3: Champagne?
4: Rene II of Anjou-Lorraine (the alerts of the last quarter are omitted)
5: flowered cross, certitude copied on a coin
6: fretted (coat of arms too frequent to be awarded)
7: Vermandois or Dreux
Anille? (Same note as for 5)
9: Jerusalem
10: Burgundy

Michel Popoff

Tarot Jeu et Magie,

I : Gonzague, ducs de Mantoue

The Règles du Jeu des Tarots, 1637 by Michel de Marolles whilst in Nevers:

for Louise-Marie de Gonzague-Nevers, the daughter of Charles III de Nevers (future Charles Ist Duke of Mantua) and Catherine de Lorraine-Mayenne:

See also (in French)

«Quand l'abbé de Marolles jouait au tarot», Le Vieux Papier, fasc. 365, juil. 2002, p. 313-326:

the house of Gonzague-Nevers was founded by Louis IV de Gonzague-Nevers:

His paternal grand-mother was Isabelle d'Este, a family long associated with tarot--

Huck discussed Gonzague-Nevers also here:

In the Règles du Jeu des Tarots, 1637 by Michel de Marolles:


Sçauoir le Roy, la Royne, le Cheualier, & le Faon


Qui a les quatre Roynes les quatre Cheualiers, ou les quatre Faons

TdP Varlet = F (FB/FC/FD/FE) = Fante? or, Faon?


As well as discussion at Tarot History forum is also recent thread (French) here:


5, 6 & 7 of pentacles

For my second post I will deal with these 3 cards all at once :

657deniers by PhilBeDaN, sur Flickr

Here again we can go further than Popoff/Depaulis & Kaplan and propose an explanation linking all the coats of arms together.

Concerning the Kings of France, the traditional ceremony of sacred coronation at Reims required 12 peers :

¤ 6 ecclesiastical peers here represented on the 6 of coins :

A - Archibishop and Duke of Reims (anoints and crowns the king)
B - Bishop and Duke of Langres (bears the sceptre)
C - Bishop and Duke of Laon (bears the sainte ampoule containing the sacred ointment)
D - Bishop and Count of Châlons (bears the royal ring)
E - Bishop and Count of Noyon (bears the belt)
F - Bishop and Count of Beauvais (bears the royal mantle)

¤ 6 lay peers :

7 - Duke of Burgundy (bears the crown and fastens the belt)
4 - Duke of Normandy (holds the first square banner)
6 - Duke of Guyenne or Aquitaine (holds the second square banner)
5 - Count of Toulouse (carries the spurs)
10 - Count of Flanders (carries the sword)
8 - Count of Champagne (holds the royal standard)

When the lay peerages were extinct or reunited to the Crown, other eminent dignitaries played their role. It 's precisely what happened on the 30th May 1484 during the coronation of Charles VIII (1470-1498) :

- Louis Duke of Orleans (coat n°12), Valois & Milan, future Louis XII, played the role of Duke of Burgundy (7) (extinct at least for France if not for the Hasburgs since Charles the Bold's death in 1477)
- René Duke of Alençon (coat n°11) played the role of Duke of Normandy (4)
- Pierre de Bourbon (coat n°9), Count of Clermont & La Marche (coat n°2), sieur of Beaujeu and Armagnac played the role of Duke of Aquitaine (6)
- François de Bourbon (coat n°9), count of Vendôme (coat n°2) played the role of Count of Toulouse (5)
- Louis de Bourbon (coat n°9), Dauphin d'Auvergne, played the role of Count of Flanders (10) (as for Burgundy the real Count was Maximilian)
- Philippe of Savoy, Count of Bresse, played the role of Count of Champagne (8)

Thus have we used all the coats of arms, excepting n°1 Paris and n°3 Lyon (that I will explain later)


37 days after the coronation, on the 6th July 1484 Charles VIII made his entrance in Paris (coat n°1). From a chronicle of that time :

ChroM by PhilBeDaN, sur Flickr

On the evening of this day, a dinner was given in the royal palace. Charles was surrounded by the high dignitaries evoked in my precedent post but sitting next to him (to his left) was the Cardinal-Archibishop of Lyon (coat n°3) whose name was Charles II de Bourbon (coat n°9) [magnificent portrait by the Master of Moulins]. He was Pierre's brother, Louis was their uncle and Philippe de Bresse their brother-in-law. François belongs to another branch of the family. The fact the sigil is bigger emphasizes his importance but also the importance of Lyon (all the more so as this tarot is literally invaded by lions).

Now that all the coats of arms are explained, let's sum up what we have discovered :

-importance of François Ier and his three sons
-importance of Charles VIII
-importance of the family of Bourbon (4 or 5 members if we include Philippe de Savoie are represented on the 5 & 7 of coins)
-importance of Lyon

All these elements combined with the coat of arms on the 2 of coins and the unicorn on the Ace of Swords allow myself to affirm that the sponsor of this tarot is Antoine II LE VISTE (1470-1534) [] from a well-known Lyon-based family of jurists having served the Bourbon family and, in the person of Antoine II, the achievement and last male of his lineage, the Kings Charles VIII (whose he was the exact contemporary), Louis XII and François Ier. From his carreer : Prévôt des marchands de Paris in 1520; Président à Mortier au Parlement de Paris in 1523.

The original Le Viste's house still exists in Lyon, 29 Rue Saint-Jean.

2den&asd'é by PhilBeDaN, sur Flickr

Above all he is known for having been the sponsor of the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, one of the greatest works of art of the late middle ages, rediscovered during the 19th century by Prosper Mérimée & George Sand in the Boussac castle and nowadays in the Museum of Cluny Paris. The images speak for themselves.

La-Dame-licorne-Le-Gout-tapisseries-restaurees-nouveau-presentees-Musee-Cluny_0_1400_1152 by PhilBeDaN, sur Flickr

blason ALV 6 by PhilBeDaN, sur Flickr

It is obvious to me that this tarot has been made seventy years before the alleged date, ie circa 1530. The astrologer or philosopher of L'étoile (the Star) looks a little like Erasmus of Rotterdam (1467-1536) whose life coincides quite exactly with Le Viste's life. It goes without saying that I don't adhere to the thesis defended by Popoff/Depaulis & Stuart Kaplan of a Strozzi and Gonzague involvement in this tarot.

Oddly I feel our tarot a little less anonymous and a little less parisian tonight ;)


It is missing the blue diagonal of Viste, but with all the rest it is very convincing:

The unicorn, lion and other elements are not unique to this deck of course, as has been noted elsewhere have qualities in common with some German decks, such as the following at the British museum (not that it has to be unique, as a card-playing motif it is clearly one that would have appealed to Viste) :



Better resolution:




Kwaw I am well aware of the existence of this deck and its similarities with the improperly called anonymous parisian tarot. But I'm not finished with the two of coins & the other coins cards yet. I will discuss thereafter what I've learn through it.


The King of Spain coin reminds one of the Ace of Coins in the Game of Aluette, which is called 'le borgne'* - the one-eyed:



The association of the one-eyed with king calls to mind the proverb:

"In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is King!"
[Au royaume des aveugles, les borgnes sont rois!]

[Both Gebelin and Mellet mention the card game Aluette, stating the Spanish names of the cards preserved their ancient Egyptian origins, the one-eyed ace of coins being the Sun, Apollon [Phoeboae lampadis instar]; the cow (la vache = 2 of cups) is consecrated to Apis or Isis; Le Seigneur, le Maitre, the supreme being IOU (three of coins); etc]


*According to Mellet/Gebelin the Ace is called le Borgne, but in the rules I have seen it is the 2 of coins that is called the Borgne--