Empress as Europa


Having at various times considered one of the possible symbolic meanings (but not sole) of the Papess as Mother Church, I also wondered if one of the possible symbolic meanings of the Empress could be of Europa.

Of course, I am not denying that it is also of the position of Empress, and even possibly intended as an actual and real historically specific figure.

Considering it as Europa, I then came across this figure, originally an engraving from Sebastian Müntzer's Cosmographia Universalis, Basle, circa 1550.

One of the items of course definitely 'missing' (which links it to a more specific house) is the emblem on shield of the black Eagle. Still, even its location, superimposed on this map, would indicate a connection to the Roman Eagle and hence the Holy Roman Empire - I realise I am going, with this, a little further than warranted.

Anyhow, for further reflection, here is the scanned image:


Very interesting, your thoughts on Europa jmd! I have just re-read The Civilization of Europe in the Renaissance by John Hale. Thomas Hardy said that Europe looks like a prone figure of a woman, the head of which is Spain, Italy her Arm, England her other arm, the alps her spine and stretching like a green garment all the way to Moscow. I understand that maps of Europe before the 16th Century were mainly symbolic rather than schematic- so I am presuming the figure of a woman was not actually seen in the topographical way we now look at maps.
In Iconologia (C Ripa 1603) Europe was described as wearing a crown, with two cornucopia, a church in one hand, a sceptre in the other. I can see why one would think that she could be the Empress. I like the thought that Jupiter as the Bull kisses her feet every now and then. Oh what creativity Aleph had in mind! In some depictions she carries a wreath, which could look like a shield, and somewhere in the book is a title page from Theatrum Orbis Terrarium which has the seated Europa with sceptre and shield. Has not Jupiter the Eagle? ~Rosanne


Beautiful! I like your perspective here, JMD. Here is what I would add by way of detailed structure.

Each two consecutive trumps surely have some sort of solid connexion. Two and three are the same sex, hence we would expect the figures involved, distilled out from whatever embraces or surrounds them, to be of the same intrinsic nature or character, the upshot being that the eagle is not necessary to the persona of the Empress, which surely appears to be the Europa of your illustration (or she it) and thus complement that same type of symbolic quality in LaPapesse that makes her stand in one sense for Mother Church (cloister as refuge for women).

Three and four, then, signify the third and fourth elements, water and earth (in thought), which are form and the matter that expresses it, respectively, whose interplay is 'mediated' (to use a useful term from modern physics) by scorpio's eagle, eagle (or Egyptian vulture) being the hieroglyphic form of the doer, alef. One branch of the eagle's tail appears to be the tuft at the Emperor's feet in the Marseilles, while the other appears to embrace the Empress about her middle (base of her spine). These trumps are of opposite sex, [since the spine or male column is the one that is materially intact and hence must embrace the female as well, whose front column is broken off at the sternum (to permit procreation),] and indeed it is Europe, primarily, for whom Emperors vie -- even (nay especially) when they marry.

It is Mother Church for whom Popes vie, so to speak, and indeed between bardic and Hebrew numbering 2 and 5 are switched about, their exchange (to borrow another term from physicists) enclosing 3 and 4 (in a marriage bower consisting of aspen and birch). As background, this perhaps shows the cynicism -- mere realism, perhaps -- of tarot's design vis a vis priestly religion, reinforcing the case for its being of Gnostic bent.


O how wonderful! I haven't a thing of substance to contribute, but I love the image! And Sicily as her orb! I'm going to watch this thread quietly with an occasional outburst of "wow, how cool."


Ca. 1550 the reigning head in Europe was Charles V. and he was placed in Spain

... :) that's political propaganda, declaring that the world is reigned by Spain.


Huck said:
. . . that's political propaganda, declaring that the world is reigned by Spain.
. . . (or simply a statement of the political reality at the time: depends on how you look at it). Greetings, Huck.


I do not understand what you mean Huck. Munster was originally Catholic and then became a Lutheran- he was the archetypal protestantic man. I think I agree with VeniceBard (why Venice?? I have been meaning to ask you that :D)
that this is not political but a mapmakers view of the assumed reality of the time- after all Italy holds the sceptre and orb?. ~Rosanne



Münzer - protestantic or not - was too successful to be critical about reigning heads, I would assume.
The engraving ... easily recognizable ... is an hommage to the reigning Emperor, so part of the contemporary political propaganda instrument. So one should assume this, as long not better informations are available, which possible might place the picture in a detailed context.


Thanks Huck, but I find it strange to think it is Homage to the Emperor with such a pronounced bust :D It looks like Europa to me. ~Rosanne