Boiardo, Matteo Maria

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Boiardo Tarot - Juno as the Queen of Jealousy (Eyes)

Poem - Tarotpedia index

Boiardo Tarocchi Poem: Beginning (Sonett at the opening)

Boiardo Tarocchi Poem: Chapter 1 - Timore (Fear)

Boiardo Tarocchi Poem: Chapter 2 - Gelosia (Jealousy)

Boiardo Tarocchi Poem: Chapter 3 - Speranza (Hope)

Boiardo Tarocchi Poem: Chapter 4 - Amore (Love)

Boiardo Tarocchi Poem: Chapter 5 - Triompho Del Vano Mondo

Boiardo Tarocchi Poem: End (Sonett at the end)

Tarot contribution

At some time between circa 1460 - 1494, Count Matteo Maria Boiardo wrote a poem about 'Trionfi' cards in a structure that either mimics or anticipates Tarot. Apart from the brief opening and closing sonetts, what is below described as 'chapters' (1-5) has the first four with fourteen parts, and the fifth with twenty-two. This precisely mirrors Tarot as it has emerged, with four suits of fourteen cards [see Court and Pip Cards], and a fifth suit of twenty-two [see Atouts] - in effect a 4x14 + 22 structure.

It is one of the oldest references to a deck with 22 trumps or Atouts. From this some have suggested that perhaps Count Boiardo invented this structure, eventually becaming the Tarot standard.

A number of centuries later, the fifth suit having twenty-two cards suggested to Count de Mellet, and later still to Eliphas Levi, an encoding of significance. The latter of whom claiming that Tarot developed in reference to kabbalistic ideas in relation to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. These suggestions had important influences on modern Tarot, especially once promulgated by members and ex-members of the Golden Dawn (incorporating specific astrological correlations for the Hebrew alphabet as suggested in the Sefer Yetzirah).

This also raises an interesting further question as to whether Boiardo may have been in any way influenced by Hebrew contemporaries to choose the number of Hebrew letters (22) for his trumps. Given his younger cousing was the later influential Pico della Mirandola, the connection also gains more possible, yet at this stage remote, credibility.

An ancient comment on the Boiardo poem has been written by Pier Antonio Viti. A "work in progress" English translation is available here.


Count of Scandiano (Reggio Emilia). Born in Scandiano 1440 or 1441. In 1476 he moves to Ferrara as the court poet of Ercole D'Este. In 1480 he is appointed governor of Modena. He dies in Reggio Emilia in 1494.



A more recent deck has been produced and published using Boiardo's poem, based on extant cards from the 15th or 16th century:


(See first heading above for internal links)

Books on this author

[in some cases, especially for earlier writers or influential ones, books may have been written on this author (or a major section included) - please delete this section if not appropriate]

External Links