The 3 uncut sheets from the “Rosenwald collection” – National Gallery of Art de Washington D.C. (1951.16.5 -1951.16.6-1951.16.7)
The documents and their location :
From this ensemble of 3 uncut cards sheets, 2 distinct groups are emerging :
The first Group 1951.16.7
The first sheet shows an almost complete series of tarot trumps; only the fool is missing. 3 queens follows after the trumps. This sheet appears to be printed in reverse. It should be noted that another version of this very same sheet is preserved in Germany, at the Deutsches Spielkartenmuseum, and it is printed in the right orientation. Therefore, once they are placed in the right sense, the cards displayed in 3 bands of 8 cards dispatched on the mold, could easily follow their original order.
They read as follows, from left to right and from bottom to top :
Queen of Cups, Queen of swords, Queen of Coins, (I) Magician, (II) Popess, (III) Empress, (IIII) Emperor, (V) Pope, (bottom row)
(VI) Lover, (VII) Temperance, (VIII) Justice, (VIII) Force, (X) Chariot, (XII) Hermit, Hanged Man, Wheel of Fortune / (at the center)
Death, Devil, Tower, Star, Moon, Sun, World, Jugement / (top row)
Only the roman numbers inter-brackets are visible on the cards. The other one don’t have any.
The second group 1951.16.5 -1951.16.6
The next 2 sheets could easily form a complete pack of 48 cards, similar to the 4 low bands of a tarot deck from which you would have removed the queens and tens. The differences in style, in terms of the the engraving refinement, as well as for the representation of the series symbols are striking to say the least. Similar full decks of 48 cards are known by scholars. One of them in particular is known as the Assisi deck. It is a colored deck with the back glued, and is stylistically extremely similar to the Rosenwald group, comprised of two sheets.
I will not delve into greater detail at this point, as this will be the subject of a forthcoming developement and new “Tarot Sheet Revival” releases.
Origin and dating :
Knowing about the existence of a second version of the trumps sheet, I send a request to the au Deutsches Spielkartenmuseum. In answer, Dr Annette Köger, museum curator, kindly sent me a copy of their specimen that can be found under the aid number Inv.Nr. B 1006. She also pointed out that another document, a page book, was associated with it.
At this point, the discarded paper materials were not thrown away, but recycled into raw materials, particularly for the manufacturing of book bindings. So that for book cover restoration, very old documents are able to resurface. The fact that these sheets are related provides an important indication as to the dating and/or discerning of geographic origins.
By chance, this page comes from a Latin book : The “Consiliorum, Sive Responsorum d. Petri Philippi Cornei Patricii Perusini, Pontificii, Caesareique Luris Consultissimi” by Pier Filippo Corneo. It has been published a dozen times, and the specific edition had to be determined.
From there, I found this recently posted information on the tarot history. You can follow this link to learn more:
A book of the same edition resides at the Biblioteca Comunale, Augusta, Perusia (I B 399). Therefore, we can assign the later date of 1501-1502 to our sheet, and assume that it has been in Perusia.
The Franco Pratesi text, along with Thierry Depaulis contribution, can help to clearly establish the question of date and origin.
Italian version : http://www.naibi.net/a/601-UMBRIA-Z.pdf
And an english translation: http://pratesitranslations.blogspot.be/2017/02/jan-5-2017-1501-1521-cards-from-perugia.html
About the trumps’ order :
The 2 last cards of our serie, the higher ones, are “The World” followed by “The Jugement”. This indicates that our deck follows the Type A order, specific to the Florentine tradition. Important similarities can also be noted with a Minchiate design, without the additional cards.
The Rosenwald trumps sheet is a precious document regarding the origins of the printed tarots, maintaining its veil of mystery. There are many theories surrounding a complete ensemble formed by the 3 sheets in a regrouped format; however, I think that the strongly marked differences between groups 1 and 2 suggest caution in terms of definitive analysis and conclusions. But of course, there is nothing preventing us from reviving them as a new poetic formula.
Thierry Depaulis, Tarot, jeu et magie, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, 1984. Book online in french : http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k6532698n.r.
n° 27 (“Trois feuilles de la collection Rosenwald”, “Florence (?), Italie, début du XVIe s.”).
Thierry Depaulis, Le Tarot révélé : une histoire du tarot d’après les documents, La Tour-de-Peilz : Musée Suisse du Jeu, 2013. (p. 30-32).
Le premier Groupe 1951.16.7
Le second groupe 1951.16.5 -1951.16.6
“A very special thank to Thierry Depaulis for his rereading of the french version of this article and his precious advices for during this article writing and to my friend Jessica Webster Mills who is always kind enough to make me write a proper english.”