Pair 1 - the Commoners

The Fool and the Conjurer form the first pair. They have a lot in common. Both don't have a fixed place to live. They dwell from village to village, the Fool to find something to eat and the Conjuror to earn (or to steal) some money.

PAIR 1 - THE COMMONERS

THE TAROT WHEEL

To represent the Commoners, the Italian nobility (be it a Visconti or be it an Estensi) deliberately chooses for the representation on the Trionfi cards two of its lowest representatives. They did not choose the leaders of a Republic or a rich banker or merchant, no, for the Italian nobility the Commoners where almost as low as animals, they had no culture nor education. In any case they needed them as servants and farmers, but otherwise you should better avoid them. So they choose two very low representatives, a Fool and a Conjuror.

On the first card representing the Commoners in the Visconti Sforza deck, we see a barefooted man in ragged cloths. The seven feathers in his hair represent maybe the seven virtues, the three big feathers in front the three Theological Virues, gifts of grace from God, and the four small feathers behind the four Cardinal Virues, virtues that anyone can practice. His mind is closer to the Heavens than to Earth, it is pure and innocent. The man does not know the rules of Society, he's considered a fool. Behind him some blue mountains, representing obstacles in our mind. In the first fourteen cards of the Visconti Sforza Tarot, green mountains seems to represent obstacles in the real world and blue mountains obstacles in our mind. All mountains behind the Fool are blue, another sign that his mind is closer to Heaven than to Earth.His face has no expression at all, his eyes are staring in the nothingness. On his shoulder a big club, a common attribute for a fool when portrayed in Art. The oldest Italian sources call this card El Matto, which means somebody who lost partially or completely the capacity of reasoning, to be short a mentally ill person, an idiot or a fool. In that period people thought that fools were thought to be possessed by the devil, so they were avoided by society. Not all Tarot decks represent the Fool negatively as Filippo Maria does. We come back on this question when looking at the individual Trump cards. In the figure here at the right an other illustration dating from the late Middle Ages depicting a Fool.

The two cards we are presenting here did not exist in the cards of the Visconti di Mordrone. Bianca Maria Visconti had a lot of contact with the Este family, and it is very probable that both families used at the beginning of the second half of the 15th Century the same 14 Trump card structure illustrations based on the same principles. It is impossible to say who influenced who, probably both families are responsible for part of the ideas expressed in these images.

The second card is called El Bagatella. We have to emphasize that these names have been given many years later, the Italian nobility might have called these cards in another way. We see a very well clothed man sitting behind a simple table with some objects that make us immediattely think at a conjurer. The table looks like the tables you find on a village fair. You can easily remove the legs and transport the table. On the table, there are a hat, a cup, some dices or coins, a knive and in his hand he hold a conjurer's wand. Except for the had, the other objects symbolize the four suits. The clothes of El Bagatella are rich, but even this is an illusion. He is rather poor and the red color immediattely identifies him as belonging to the lowest class. The nobility avoided red colors, they preferred colors like blue and gold. Bagatella is an Italian word that means something without value. So El Bagatella is someone who is occupied with things without the slightest importance. From what we see, maybe Italian nobility called him “Il Prestidigitatore” (the Conjurer). The Journey into the Tarot begins here, there are no obstacles in sight, the future is open, everything is possible. But don't trust the Conjurer to much, the card represents not only Creation, but also Illusion. Like in the image below, made around 1475/1480 by Hieronymus Bosch, a typical Conjurer on a village fair, where a man fascinated by the Conjurer's tricks, has his purse stolen..

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