Sunday, September 14, 2008

Milan under Galeazzo Maria Sforza

A Renaissance Court: Milan under Galleazzo Maria Sforza by Gregory Lubkin, published by University of California Press, Berkley, 1994.

If you want to know more about the Italian court that produced some of the earliest and the most beautiful tarot decks in history, this book is the best place to go for a well rounded view of daily life, politics, intrigue, relationships, philosophy, and just about anything else you might want to know about this Sforza and his court.  This book does not address tarot cards directly but describes in some detail the courtly life.

There is one reference to tarot cards as a form of recreation.  Cards were played by both women and men at the court.  The duke himself is known to have played cards.  In particular, it pleased him to gamble heavily playing triumphi with a tarot deck.  This seemed to have been done especially around Christmas.  Few people at court had enough financial resources to match his wagers, and he was serious enough about gambling that he once commanded that everyone present join him in gambling and was known to offer money to entice people to play.


Gregory Lubkin said...

Unfortunately, as much interest as I had in finding material related to the tarot at the Milanese court, hardly anything turned up during the research for this book. However, there was a lot of archival material I didn't have time to read, so there may still be much to discover. On the other hand, it was easy to find material relating to astrology.

gwynwas said...

I think there is only one or two fleeting references to tarot in this work. I would not recommend it if you are looking for detailed information about tarot. But it does give a great overview of day to day life in the court and something of the world view and outlook of the inner circle.

It is interesting that astrology was openly practiced at this time, and the Milan court, like others in Lombardy had an astrologer on the payroll. In fact, I believe there is an illuminated volume on astrology that dates to the Visconti court.

The relationship between astrology and the early tarot, if any, is certainly a matter of debate.