The picture is from Mitelli (also known as a Tarot painter) and dated ca. 1684/85, after the siege of Vienna by the Turks resulted in a decisive victory for the West-European troops. The three pictured persons are said to present German Empire, Venetia and the Osman Sultanat.
In the time of the origin of the Trionfi (15th century) the idea of a crusade constantly reappeared, cause the Osman forces constantly were a little more successful as their Western opponents. Occasionally real crusades took place, although these are usually not evaluated as a crusade (and often - not always - ended with a defeat).
Some events - just to remember (and to observe a special motif: the dragon)
1389: The Osman leader is killed by an assassin. The symbolic of St. George "killing the dragon" is applied to the assassin, the dragon" meaning the Osman.
1396: battle of Nicopolis. The leader of the Christian troops Sigismondo (then king of Hungary, later German Emperor) barely escapes. In the siege of Constantinople the Byzantin Empire is lucky, that the Osmans are attacked from the East (1402) and have a big loss.
Battle of Nicopolis (1396)
Battle of Ankara (1402) - victory of Timur
1408: A knight order is founded by Sigismondo, called the Order of the Dragon (remembering the assassin of 1389). As in other knight orders the members get a sign: a dragon, variated occasionally in its form according the rank of the members.
Order of the Dragon (1408)
(both reconstructions only)
1415: a delegation of Constantinople is at the council of Constance, begging for help
1422: a new siege at the city of Constantinople which results in a Venetian-Osman war (1422-1429)
1438/39: The council of Ferrara/Florence is a result of the council of Constance. A delegation of ca. 700 persons from the region of Constantinople and other dominions of the orthodox church attend the council. The council more or less influences the situation, which gave birth to the Trionfi cards (1441/1442 Ferrara/Milan).
1443/44: The Crusade of Varna takes place. In the great lost battle the Cardinal Cesarini lost his life. Cesarini was a leading figure at the council of Ferrara. In one of the side plans for the crusade it was discussed before, that Francesco Sforza (involved in the production of Trionfi cards and in the time after the marriage October 1441 living for some time in Venice) should take a leading position in the crusade.
Crusade of Varna (1443-1444)
Battle of Varna (1444)
Somehow in this time: "Dracula" becomes a member of the Dragon order, then first political engagement 1448
Vlad III. Dracula (1448, 1457 - 1462, 1476)
1453: Constantinople is conquered. At three important European battle places fighting is stopped: Burgundy - battle of Gent; the 100 years war is decided in favour of the French; the 30-years-war in Italy between mainly Milan versus Florence-Venice is settled with the peace of Lodi 1454.
At the "feast of the pheasant" in Burgund (1454) the direction is given to fight
in a crusade against the Osmans.
St. Capistranus is send to German regions to preach for the crusade and against playing cards.
However, "Venice managed to maintain a colony in the city and some of the former trade privileges it had had under the Byzantines".
Feast of the pheasant
1456: St. Capristan and the Hungarian leader John Hunyadi have successes on the sea and in Belgrad, and this leads to a Trionfi festivity in Rome.
However, Hunyadi and St. Capistran die short after their success.
between the burned items are playing cards
1459: Pius II becomes pope and his major interest is the idea of a crusade. The congress of Mantova takes place to win energies for this enterprise - but the invited nobility proves rather desinterested. The momentary militarical focus is on the decision in Naples, the aragon heir Ferrante is attacked by the Anjou. The Albanian crusader-hero Skanderbeg comes to help Ferrante, cause his father Alfonso had earlier sponsored his fight against the Osmans to keep Albania in independence.
1463: The Osmans attack Argos. This starts a Venetian-Osman war, which endures till 1479. The Venetian give financial help to the Hungarian king Matthias Covinus, who has some successes. Venice calls for a crusade, has pope Pius on her side, but Milan and Florence stay rather undecided, somehow happy to see Venice's militaric forces occupied with problems outside of Italy. They are not very interested to fight in a war, in which the successes will only favour Venice.
1464: Pius II dies. The new pope Paul II has more interest in money than in a crusade. A lot of discussions about costs of the war and who should carry which costs.
1467: Skanderbeg is in Rome, begging for financial help. He finally gets a minor sum (2500 ducatos) and stays rather disappointed. He gets better help from Naples.
1469/70: Letters from Venice to Rome start to sound more more desperated, finally Negroponte is taken (one of the greatest Venetian losses ever happened).
Corvinus meanwhile uses more energy for Bohemian/German problems, not very interested in the problems of Venice. Skanderbeg has died meanwhile, but the important stronghold Croia still has survied 3 major sieges of the Osmans. Great Christian hopes are on the activities of Uzun Hasan in the east of the Osmans, who occupies the energies of the Osman military.
1471. The pope Paul II. dies, having about 1.000.000 ducats invested in luxury items. The new pope Sixtus IV relatively quick tries to do something for a crusade, using the chance, that Osmanic troops are occupied in the east (about this chance and logical action was debated already long in the time of Paul II). In 1472 a fleet starts, a few Roman ships (which costs about 144.000 ducats), more ships from Naples and Venice unite. One has a few minor successes (the city of Smyrna is conquered and burnt) and "with triumph" the papal army returns to Rome (January 1473). The Venetian leader of the fleet becomes Doge at the next opportunity (1474), the leading Roman cardinal in the army, Orvieto Caraffa, becomes a great man in Rome - but don't gets militarical missions in the future, as the minor successes find some critique.
The papal army focusses then on local interests, that means to get some influence in Italy for the family of Sixtus. This causes general Italian trouble, which endures till the death of Sixtus. Papal militaric engagement takes place, when the fall of Orvieto (1481) causes great fear.
1474-1476: "Dracula" returns to the battlefield. He dies in this attempt.
1476: Matthias Corvinus marries a daughter of the Aragon court in Naples and unites the Hungarian interests with those of Naples (Trionfi symbols wander to Hungary, Matthias Corvinus finally has one of the greatest libraries in Europe). The marriage knows a "Trionfi" presentation, which shows the "Trionfi" of Petrarca.
Both parties have reason to fear the upcoming of the Osmans, living ihe neighbourhood of the Osmans.
1478: Croia, the Albanian stronghold earlier defended by Skanderbeg, is conquered by the Osmans in the 4th siege of the city.
Sixtus is involved in the murder of one of the Medici-brothers. Naples takes side with the pope first.
1479: Venice has to agree in an unfavourable peace with the Osmans. Matthias Corvinus protests.
1479 - 1483: Matthias Corvinus in active war with the Osmans.
1481: The Osmans attack and conquer Orvieto. Sixtus reacts in panic. However, the major part of the Osman troops returns quickly, further Osman progress is stopped by the death of Mehmed II. Orvieto is retaken without too much problems for the Christian troops.
Venice didn't help in this conflict. Sixtus is quick in organizing a war against Ferrara. Finally he turns his energies against his earlier partner Venice. When peace is confirmed by all other fighting parties, he dies - likely cause of his anger.
"Despite the setbacks in the struggle against the Turks, at the end of 15th century, with 180,000 inhabitants, Venice was the second largest city in Europe after Paris and probably the richest in the world."
map Europe ca. 1500
Well, why I do tell you that:
In the time of development of the Trionfi the "crusade" was always a theme to the Italian princes. Also we have the feature, that the persons, which were connected to "Trionfi cards" often were also connected to "Knight orders" and naturally to these "crusades".
All this context wouldn't make it surprizing, if some of the Tarot decks would have hidden "crusade signs".
Mantegna Tarocchi, picture 4, Saturno ... holds a dragon in his hand, biting its tail - like the sign of the dragon order.
The time, when the picture was produced, saw an upcoming interest in Greek mythology. It become custom to talk of "Jupiter", when one talked of God. Now Jupiter had a foe, his father Kronos or Saturn, and this one tried to eat his children.
Well, it might be, that this mythological story was turned towards the actual political situation of the time, the fight against the Osmans, which possibly were seen in the role of Saturn.
Saturn at the picture has a very specific cap, which I don't understand. Somehow it reminds a muselmanic turban, but actually it isn't a turban ... it seems to be a helmet, with the decoration of the horns of Aries.
Does anybody know this type of helmet from other pictures?
Actually there is an Aries-symbol in the story of Abraham and his son Isaac, another mythological story, in which the "father tries to kill his son".
This Abraham-Isaac story is rather directly associated to the general Christian-Islamic conflict. Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ismael. Isaac became ancestor to the Jews (and so to the Christians), Ismael to the Arabs (and so to the Muselmans).
In this picture the Aries-symbol reappears, now as part of the armour for the knees.
It's the Fool of the Rouen (or Leber) Tarocchi. The helmet associates a snail
... I don't understand that that, somebody does it? From my point it seems possible, that it was connected to purpur-production, so to snails and so again to the Muselmans.
The Rouen Tarocchi is not known completely, only fragmented. One of the cards, identified as the "Emperor" but actually titled as "Imperator Assyriorum" rides on a camel.
It's our (Trionfi.com) suspicion, that this deck type was developed as a crusader deck, intended to make it attractive to join the Christian forces and inviting to partake in a crusade.
One of the suits uses instead of the usual batons the heraldic device (an oak-tree) of the Rovere family. Pope Sixtus IV. (1471-1484) and Pope Julius (1503 - 1513) belonged to the Rovere family.
(The suits of a deck, which was in the possession of the researcher Cicognara also had the significant oak-tree).
Crusade talking was also in the time of Julius, but the whole situation of Sixtus (much young nephews) make the production in the time of Sixtus in our opinion more probable than in the time of Julius (who participated in a lot of wars, but not in crusades). In contrary to this our opinion the deck is generally dated to early 16th century (which would fit with the reignment of Julius).
But for instance it would be possible, that an earlier deck was reproduced
later, perhaps with slightly changed motifs. Actually Julius was one of the nephews of Sixtus, who in their youth possibly were responsible for this deck.
Generally it's to observe, that Cardinal Caraffa returned to Rome in January 1473 "in triumph" and that part of the triumphal procession were real prisoners (some unlucky Muselmans), just as it was described in the description of antique Roman Trionfi.
In this year 1473 the Roman scene was reigned by cardinal Pietro Riario, one of the nephews of Sixtus, who lived in splendour with a court of about 500 persons and dominated all and everybody, as he had somehow organized, that Sixtus became pope in 1471. For instance he became host to Eleanore of Aragon in summer 1473 (same year), when she passed the city Rome on her way to Ferrara, where she was married to Ercole d'Este, an opportunity, at which with high security Trionfi-decks were produced.
It's suspected by us, that possibly at the same opportunity the Boiardo Tarocchi poem was written, which has somehow similarities to the construction of the Rouen deck and also to the Sola-Busca-Tarocchi.
Another of the greater festivities of Pietro Riario took place in Florence, where he was made archbishop (same year), and then he made important visits (also with some glory) in Milan and Venice (also same year). He returned in October 1473, and died 3 January 1474, quick and suddenly as a young man, leaving debts of 200.000 ducatos (the whole crusade expedition of Caraffa had taken 144.000 ducatos - one should compare these numbers a little bit to get an impression of the "cultural impact" of Pietro Riario; the costs for an accompanying Trionfi card production for one or some more of these events would have been "nothing") - Riario had a yearly income of 60.000 ducatos, so actually we have to consider 320.000 ducatos, which disappeared in the investment for a good name for the Riario-Rovere, which secured the family-members good positions in the Christian church for some decades.
It's to observe, that at the court of Galeazzo Maria Sforza playing cards still were "something for the women", courtly men played chess, took their chances with bets on tennis-games, made jousts and went hunting.
This seems to have changed in the 70's ... playing with cards was tolerated and became accepted custom for persons like Ascanio Sforza and Rodrigo Borgia, also Girolamo Riario. The Riario/Rovere came from the lower classes, naturally they accepted games as they knew them. The established courts still had lived with a rule, that playing cards were for women, just allowed for young men only. This seems to have changed in this time.
In the mid of the 70's Platina, chief librarian of the Papal library and well acquainted with all the Riario-Rovere, stated, that card playing was an allowed way to relax a little bit. From 1474-1478 a note is dated, according which Trionfi cards were imported from Florence to Rome.
Well, perhapa somebody can help in the iconographical questions. What sort of cap (or helmet) has the Saturn? What's the snail-symbol in the other helmet?
The Aries ...
We've also a dragon for Rhetorica ... perhaps, I don't know, cause many humanists had as a major occupation to preach and to argue in the pro-crusade-way.
Other dragons appear in the Chronico-picture (also with tail-biting), the Prudentia and in the Mercury presentation.