Pier Antonio Viti Boiardo Comment

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Francesco Cossa - 1476-84 - Schifanoia Palace, Ferrara - Allegory of April: Triumph of Venus

About this translation

This text is a comment of the Boiardo Tarocchi Poem

The following translation originally was a Google translation of the text found on http://trionfi.com/0/h/03/ This translation is in need for human revision. If you read a paragraph whose meaning is not clear to you, please check if you can improve its English.


The cards are in the number of eighty; the first card contains a sonnet that briefly describes the quality of them all. The last similarly explains to the readers, with another sonnet, that the intention of the composer was to invent this game, so that time, that passes tediously, is alleviated with some fun, for those who perchance live idly. The remainder of the cards can be divided in two parts: one contains twenty-one trumps and the Fool; the other contains forty cards of four suits, with sixteen figures in sixteen painted cards: and in this respect it fits with the common game of cards. There are four suits: one is Love, another Hope, the third Jealousy, the fourth Fear. And in everyone of these suits there are fourteen cards, between which there are four figures, which bear signs like common cards do. And, not to leave anything out, I want to reproduce the sonnet that is written on the first card. It declares the order of all this game, which therefore begins in the following way:

Initial Sonnet


Beginning from Love, know that darts are painted on its ten cards: a dart on the first, by which the Chapter of Love begins; and the chapter is made up of all the cards of Love, since it contains as many tercets as the number of the cards. Each tercet begins with the word "Love", followed by the number of the darts: for instance, the first card says"Love one that" etc; in that verse "one" was written and one dart is pictured on the card. And on the second card, after Love is placed "two"; and therefore subsequently on all the others in that suit. It is true that neither two, neither three, neither four, and neither the other numbers are thereby explicitly mentioned in the verse written alongside that of Love, as it should have been, but in the following way: "Love (DUE = two) doubt (DUBIO) is not that jealousy"; and of the three it is said: "Love (TER=three) term and end of your gain"; and so on in the sequence of the other cards.

After the verses of Love, one finds again the two and three and so on of the other suits: and this the author says to have composed because initially the cards were only painted with three verses, beginning Love one, Love two, and Love three, within the suit of Love; and likewise in the other three suits of Hope, Jealousy, and that of Fear. In this way he made clear which were the cards of Love, and which suit the others were; and moreover which was the card of one, two, and three, and four, without the necessity of writing numbers on all of them. But now it is clearer; leaving these verses as they were in the suit of Love, whereupon he has painted darts with the tercets that follow about Love, beginning as I said before. And on the first card there is a dart, on the second two darts, on the third three darts, and so on until ten. The darts are crossed like wands (clubs) in the common game are, with the tercet in the middle of the card. The background of these cards in the suit of Love is coloured brown or violet; and in the suit of Hope they are coloured green, which signifies hope; and similarly in the other two suits. Alongside these numbered cards there are four illustrated with figures; so that in the suit of Love there are the Page, the Horse (knight), the Queen and the King.

Court Cards of Love

Giovanni da San Giovanni - 1631 - Zeus and Ganymedes

The Page of Love is represented by the one-eyed Cyclops who was truly in love with Galatea. He is painted in the shape of a peasant giant, with only one eye in his forehead, but in order to represent him well, I would dress him in a single sheepskin, armed with a dart in one hand and bagpipes at his feet, accompanied with a little flock of sheep that eat the grass, as poets usually describe him. I would make the colour of his skin brown in order to signify Love. With a tercet written over his head, within which one can read the name of the figure, like in all the other tercets that appear in the other court cards and trumps, of which we shall speak below.

The Horse of Love is a young man on horseback, armed with a dart in hand, dressed of brown dress and arms, with three crowns of gold on his shield. He is Paris of Troy; with the accompanying tercet over his head.

The Queen of Love is represented by the goddess Venus, illustrated riding a chariot with two wheels, dressed in brown; and similarly the chariot is drawn by two white swans, with brown reins at their necks. She holds a dart in her hand with a golden crown on her head. Two white doves are flying in the air; one flies before her head, the other behind; and over her there is the tercet that speaks about Venus. Then follows the next card.

The King is a brown figure royally dressed, seated with a dart in one hand. Beside his feet he has the eagle on one side, while on the other he has a small Ganymede, dressed in a thin veil, with crepe tissue painted brown; in his left hand he holds the lightning, and on his head a golden crown: and over that there is a tercet with the name of Jove himself. And it is the last figure in the Chapter about the suit of Love: which Chapter from that principle begins in the following way. And know Your Lady that the first tercet is on the card that has a single dart on it; the second likewise on that containing two darts, and the third tercet on the third card, and so on until the fourteenth tercet, that is the last one of each chapter, over which Jove presides. The first tercet of this Chapter of Love begins:

Love Poem

This is the Chapter, that all the cards in the suit of Love describes, as already said.


The suit of Hope he describes in the following way; The field of all the fourteen cards is coloured green, and on the tenth in a green field are painted yellow vases with a cover or lid, with one handle on which "Speranza" (Hope) or simply "Spe" is written. And this is because it describes the fable in which Jove had enclosed all the evils within the vase of Pandora, yet Hope was not within enclosed, but it remained outside at the hem of the vase. And for this reason the vases here denote Hope. On the first card, there is a large, single vase coloured yellow, the same colour of all the other vases. There is a tercet over it that begins with the word Hope; following this word, that is the first word in all the tercets in the Chapter of Hope, the number of the card is given: just as it is in the suit of Love as it was previously said. On the second card there are two vases, and in the middle of the card is the tercet; and of the third three, and similarly with the fourth, until the tenth; and, in the middle of these all, are written the tercets belonging to the suit of Hope.

Erasmus Quellin, XVII Century - Jason and the Golden Fleece

Court Cards of Hope

The four figures of this suit are described in the following way. First is the page, and it represents Horace Cocle, who stood alone in Rome against Tuscany while defending the bridge, hoping to make free both himself and his native land, in order that the Romans could cut the bridge behind his shoulders. The painting is of an armed man, with a sword in his hand, over a bridge under which a river passes; his arms are painted in green, and so too is his shield. And he has on one side a small vase, and the tercet over his head with his name inscribed.

The Horse is represented by Jason, armed with green arms, over a horse, with a sword in his hand: with hope he took much danger at sea with the Argonauts, in order to acquire the golden fleece; and he has at a side a vase, and over the head the tercet that speaks of him.

The Queen of Hope is that Hebrew Judith, of which Petrarch says: "The wise, chaste and strong Hebrew Judith". She is painted like a nymph, with a sword in her right hand and in the left she holds a vase, standing in green dresses; and on her head a golden crown, with a tercet describing the scene; and at her feet lies a man called Holofernes, killed by Judith, and she holds in her hand his bearded head cut from his neck, [...text missing ...] gloomy colour in her face; with one garment in way of a mantle, with the sleeves all listed of green; dark-skinned in her head like a moor, with a cloth many times wrapped around, also painted green.

The King of this suit is the pious Aeneas, who, with hope of finding Italy and founding his city there, left from Troy. He is dressed in a green mantle, seated with a vase in his hand, having around his head a cloth wrapped in a Moorish style, wearing a crown, and with the tercet containing his speech; and this is the last one in the Chapter belonging to the suit of Hope, which is well described in all its fourteen cards. The suit is presented like that of Love, the first tercet on the first card, the second on the second one, and similarly as in all the other. It begins in this way:

Hope Poem

Juno as Memory - Crowned by a rainbow, with peackocks at her feet - 1450 ca. - "Fulgentius metaforalis", Palat. Lat. 1066, f.223v

Jealousy and Fear

In the suit of the Jealousy, the ten cards are of colour blue or light blue, and on them are painted eyes, because, in the mind of the envious, jealousy increases and proceeds from the eyes. And on the first card there is a single, large eye, with a tercet over it; and on the other cards according to the ordered number, with a rectangle in the middle, in which the tercets are written, starting with the word "Jealousy": as in the two suits of Love and Hope they also begin with the name of the suit; along with the number in the way already written following the word "Jealousy".

Court Cards of Jealousy

In this suit, the four figures are painted in this way. First in place of the Page is Argo, whose jealousy was beyond bounds, doubting that Ios, given to him in custody by Juno, could be stolen; and his face is painted loaded with eyes, with an eye in his left hand and in the right a shepherd's wand, a shepherd dress in some part of blue colour; beside his feet there is a peacock, with an open tail, into which he was turned by Juno; and above his head there is a tercet that briefly speaks of him. The Horse is represented by Turnus: who for his jealousy was defeated by Aeneas, as you may read in Virgil; and he is over a horse, armed of all arms, coloured of blue, with one eye in hand and his three verses over his head. As a Queen of Jealousy, the goddess Juno is illustrated in this suit; because she was always jealous of Jove. And she is dressed royally of blue, astride a blue chariot with two wheels, pulled by two peacocks; with an eye in one hand, and the Iris, that others call rainbow, encircling her from head to feet. She wears a golden crown. Above her, there are the verses that speak of her.

The last figure of this suit is the King of Jealousy, Vulcan, who being jealous of all the gods, diligently observed Venus, in order to reveal her adultery. He found her flagrantly with Mars, thanks to the accusations or rays of the Sun, who beheld her while circling its daily orbit. Vulcan is painted naked, with a hammer in his right hand; and in the left a wing of cupid over an anvil; and at his feet there is a fire; and over his arm that holds the wing, again an eye; the less beautiful parts are covered with a blue tissue that is knotted twice over his shoulders; he wears a golden crown on his head. Above Vulcan there is the tercet that describes him. This card is the last one of all the Chapter of Jealousy. The tercets are associated to the fourteen cards; the first tercet to the first card, and the second to the second one; and similarly of all the others. All these verses form a Chapter that begins in the following way:

Jealousy Poem

Ended the third suit, we will speak of the fourth, that it is called the suit of Fear, in which scourges are described, as the darts are in the suit of Love. These are painted with a long wooden handle; and on the top with three drakes a little curved; and such scourges by everyone are feared...

Fear Poem


After I have written of the four suits, now I must speak of the trumps: to make clear what they mean, and the paintings, and the verses written on them. And in order to make a good start, I will first speak of that which, for what I already said, is very similar to me: and in this game he is called the Fool. He is herein depicted riding an ass, without a bridle, dressed in red, with a yellow hood on his head, and with two round little bells, stuck to two ears that are in the hood, one for each side. This hood has a green tail (and the ears also are green) that begins from behind the shoulders turning towards the head. And he is encircled with his garment tightly wrapped around him; and the mouth of his sleeves are wide, with a yellow decoration on the hem, and at the very end of the sleeve there is another little bell. At one foot, he wears a boot turned under his knee, and the part that is turned is yellow; and the rest is red. The other foot and the other hand are not visible, being painted by profile, except for his face: which is not white, with two big, black eyes, a punched nose, large lips and an open mouth, with two eyelash of black colour, and with wrinkled forehead. And for what I could estimate seeing it, it seemed to me to see the image of that man: and beyond all these things, he holds a round world in his hand: in which sea, rivers, mountains, and cities are seen; and he leans over this world with his chest and chin, and his legs are folded: to which the ass turns its head, as if it wanted to kiss his feet; and above that there are three verses, which are the beginning of the fifth Chapter, which describes all the trumps. In those verses, together with the other trumps, this figure is described. I have spoken of the Fool in particular and at length because his blood is very close to mine.

I Leisure

The first trump, having value of one point, deals with Leisure; and the figure is that of Sardanapalus, king, if I remember well, of the Assyrians; for love of luxury and gluttony, he did not rule his kingdom, and he was the one who invented sleeping on feathers. This seemed to me to be appropriate to say, speaking of Sardanapalus. His figure is delicate: he wears a white mantle of light blue colour, and he has on his head a golden crown; and he seats over a yellow seat; and under the mantle he is dressed in brown; and at his foot there is a marmot, that is a lazy and sleepy animal; and above him there are the verses that speak of him which begin with the word Leisure. And in all the Chapter the trump tercets start with that word corresponding to the figure that is painted in the lower part of the card. And at the foot of all the trumps there are animals of that same nature as the trump. The number of the trumps, beginning from Leisure, that has number one, is found written in a side of the rectangles that are painted at the top of the cards.

II Fatigue

The second trump, which is marked with number two, is Fatigue, exemplified by Hippolyta. She was, with great effort, the Queen of the Amazons. She is painted as a nymph , with chest and right sleeve dressed of brown; wearing a bend of similar colour, that is shown high and skewed behind her shoulders; on her head, she wears a green veil; her shirt, from the belt down, is white. She holds a spear in her right hand; at the left she carries a yellow shield, with a mirror in the middle, that covers all her arm. At her foot there are many ants , that are the animals that more love hard work. Above her head a tercet is read, like the others.

Parmigianino - 1523 - Diana and Atteone

III Desire

Desire is the third trump, represented by Acteon, who desired to see divine things, and, seeing Diana naked in a pool, was transformed into a red deer, when she threw water from the pool on his face. He is represented as a man in a brown jacket listed of yellow; his stockings are divided in many stripes of white and blue colour. He has the head of a deer, with two long golden and reddish antlers; his mouth is open; he holds a rope in his left hand and with his right hand expresses fear. There are two dogs that bite him. At his feet seats a leopard, which follows the other animals with much desire. In accordance with the already described order, there is a tercet above his head.

IV Reason

Reason is the fourth trump, illustrated by our Petrarch's Laura, dressed like Hippolyta. She holds a banner on which a candid ermine can be seen in a green field,; and before her there is Love, with his hands tied behind and with plucked wings; and under his feet the bow and his quivers. And at a side there is a honeycomb, with its holes, and the bees flying around it, because those animals proceed in their actions with the greatest reason. Above the head of Laura there are verses that speak of her, but not as sweetly as it has previously been done.

V Secret

In the place of the fifth trump you can see Secret, represented by Antiochus. He is dressed of a brown mantle which should be dark; he has blond hair and a delicate face; and an ostrich at his feet. That bird is believed to eat every hard thing, and to convert it in its blood , not sending it outside through the secret place. And, as the other trumps, above his head his three verses are placed.

VI Grace

Correggio - 1519 - Three Graces - Nunnery of St Paul, Parma

We see Grace as the sixth trump, and it is represented by three women: the three Graces. They are naked, with golden hair down their shoulders; the less beautiful parts are hidden with white and thin veils, and they do not seem to hide, but just to hold the veils in their hands. They look at each other, as if they were speaking. At their feet there is a Phoenix, hitting herself with her beak within a fire, with spread wings. The Phoenix is associated to the three Graces because, at any single moment in time, they can only be found in a single subject. Above the Graces the three verses are much appropriately placed.

VII Disdain

Disdain is illustrated in the seventh trump and it is represented by King Erodes. He brought to death his beloved Marianna, afterwards calling her with love and regretting. He wears a golden crown, he is covered with a brown mantle, and under dressed of blue; he strikes his chest with his hand and his mouth is open, crying; he seats over a yellow seat, with a bear at his feet, disdainful between all the other animals: so that by ripping its little wounds it kills itself with its own paws. Also in this trump, as in the others, there are three verses.

VIII Patience

Patience follows Disdain in the eight place. It is represented by Psyche, who suffered with great patience many adverse events, deserving to enter the number of the Goddesses. She represents our soul, that with the hardest work frees itself from the dirt of this world, takes her wings, received from the grace of Jove, and rises with the divine help up to the Sky, where, thanks to her efforts, beginning a life of happiness, becomes a Goddess. Psyche is portrayed as a Nymph, dressed of a brown mantle, with a white shirt under it; she holds her mantle with both hands. She has at her feet, from a side, a broken bow, with an inscription lying below it; and at her other side there are two plucked wings and a horse, with brown brake: being patient and generous, the horse endures any hard work. And above the head of Psyche, there are three verses that speak of her.

IX Error

XVI Century - Penelopes weaving - Florence Palazzo Vecchio

Error is the subject of the ninth trump, represented by the figure of Jacob. Having served Lia for seven years, he believed to have deserved Rachel, and in this largely erred. For love of Rachel, he had to serve Labaan for seven years more. So our Petrarch says: "Seven and seven years he served for Rachel". The figure of Jacob is that of a young man, dressed as a shepherd, with a hat behind his shoulders and a flask at his side; he wears a brown jacket and brown shoes; he leans on a staff, circling it with his right leg. Around him there are many sheep, that are easily subject to error, since all of them follow the error of one of them. At a side a dog lies on the ground, it wears a collar of iron thorns so that it cannot be killed by wolves. Above the head of the figure, if one looks at it, there are the verses that speak of Jacob.

X Perseverance

Behind Error, Perseverance follows, with the verses as already said, illustrated by Penelope who, with great Perseverance, wove and destroyed for many years a shroud, waiting for her beloved husband, while he went wandering through the world. She is working at a loom, complete with thread, comb, shuttle and weights commanded by her feet, and with every other thing. Some swallows are standing on the loom, while others fly around. The colour of the loom is gray, and the garment of Penelope is dark brown, with a green corset; her posture is that of one who, with her hair behind her shoulders, works at the loom with hands and feet.

XI Doubt

Doubt is found in the eleventh place, with verses appropriate to it. It is represented by king Aegeus: he doubted about the arrival of his son Theseus...

... [text missing] ...

XVII Danger

[ Danger]... is described by the figure of Cesar, who was killed in the Senate by Brutus and Cassius. In the painting, he is dressed with a brown mantle and a golden garment; the mantle falls from his shoulders. Next to him there are Brutus and Cassius, covered with red: one holding a dagger stuck in the chest of Cesar: the other getting ready to hit him; at their feet a furious bull is portrayed, symbolizing danger, because it hits with its horns without seeing its way, which is very dangerous to the assailant.

XVIII Experience

In the eighteenth trump, we see Experience, with its tercet. It is represented by Rea, Jove's mother; who, thanks to her experience, hid the new born child, in order to save him from the rage of Saturn and gave him to the Corifanti: they rose him on a mount in Crete, making noise with cymbals and basins, so that the cries of the baby were not heard by Saturn. Rea is portrayed as a woman, whose head is covered by a black veil, dressed in light brown, with a blue corset. She looks towards the top of a high mountain, were some small men can be seem. Next to her there is a little baby, with a black eagle above him, with spread wings; Jove elected it as his trusted bird, because it acquires much experience, through the length of its life and the extension of its flights.

XIX Time

After Experience, time follows, with its verses, as trump nineteen. It is represented as an Old Man , with a brown garment and a mantle of iridescent colour; limping with a crutch in his tired hand. On his right side, there is a deer with long horns; it is placed with Time because of its very long life.

XX Oblivion

Oblivion follows in the twentieth place, behind Time, with its tercet. It is painted as an old woman, with her head and neck wrapped in a yellow veil; her garment is blue with brown sleeves, but for the length of time the colour is worn out in many places; in her hand she holds a chain binding a lynx, which drinks the water flowing from the river Lethe, which has the power to deprive of all memory whoever drinks of it. These figures are represented in this trump, because old age represents oblivion, and the lynx is an animal with a very short memory, and Lethe is the river that induces oblivion in those who drink its water. Oblivion takes away from men the memory of all famous things, such as Dido who was so often mentioned by Virgil.

XXI Inner Strength

The last trump in the twenty-first place, and with its verses, is Fortitude, represented by the Roman Lucretia (and not by Sister Felice, as the composer wants). She killed herself with her own hands, thanks to her fortitude, showing to all the world the chastity of her will. She is represented as a beautiful young woman, with her hair spread, piercing her chest with a knife that she holds in her right hand. She is dressed in a mantle, black in the upper part and green below, and a red shirt. With her left hand she holds a lion, who is praised for its strength above all other animals.

Such is the detailed description of the trumps; which are presented in a chapter made of twenty-two tercets, corresponding to the twenty-two trumps, together with the Fool, with whom the chapter begins in the following way. The second tercet corresponds to the second trump, the third to the third, and so on for the others, including the Fool. Starting with him, the verses say:

Triumph Poem

In order to conclude my long discussion, I want to reproduce the sonnet that is written on the last card, after all the trumps:

Ending Sonnet


First Game

All this mine long reasoning was made in order to describe these new game of triumphs, so that Your Lady, if she wants so, can have them painted. After the cards will have been painted, they can be used to play in the following way. When all the players are gathered, in any number you want, firstly one card must be given to each player; and the distribution of cards proceeds in circle until there are no more cards. All cards must be given to the players: except those two that contain the sonnets, which are set in the middle of the table, with the sonnets upside. And from this giving of cards, who must be done by the player who draws the best card, is born the first pleasure: everyone reads aloud the verses that the cards contain, and show them to the other players. And sometimes women and men receive tercets that are so appropriate to them that there is great laugh among those who listen.

Second Game

And when each player has his cards in his hand, the first one will begin to play a card, and everyone must reply with the same suit, if he has a card of that suit; if he does not, he will play a trump. And in these cards, more in the suit of Love, darts, and more of vases, in the suit of Hope, win; in the other two suits, lower cards win. Because more love and more hope is better than less; and little jealousy and fear are worth better than more. In the trumps, the higher number, marked on one of the sides, wins. And the winner, will ask to the other players to pay as many “scudi” as the hands he has won: taking an oath at the beginning on the two cards with sonnets that are placed in the middle of the table. It is necessary that everyone keeps the cards of the hands he has won. He who has not won any hand will not play any further.

Third Game

With the cards that the players have won, another game will be played in the following way. Everyone will count its cards, and who has more of darts, or of vases, will win over those who have less; and who has less of eyes, or of whips, will win who have more cards of these suits. And the winner will ask to the loser, for prize, an obedience that, for a single time, he has the right to ask them. And in this, he who wins commands he who loses, who must obey in accord to the above mentioned oath.

Fourth Game

There is, beyond these, a fourth game, in which he who has in his cards more tercets that follow each other wins. And in prize he can ask in gift all what he wants of the things that are around to the person who has lost the game.

These are the four games that, currently, with these new triumphs, are played. With these cards, many other games can be played, as many as with the common triumphs are continually played. Having extensively reasoned about such games, in order not to tire you more, I will stop here.