Artibus et Historiae no. 56 (XXVIII)

2007, ISSN 0391-9064

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MICHAEL DUMMETT - Six XV-Century Tarot Cards: Who Painted Them?

The most complete surviving hand-painted Tarot pack from XV-century Italy, missing only four cards, is in part in Bergamo and in part in New York; it is here called the Colleoni pack. It was originally attributed to Antonio Cicognara on the basis of a document now universally recognised to have been spurious. In 1928 the pack was attributed by Roberto Longhi to Bonifacio Bembo; this attribution has been generally accepted. Six of the trump cards are manifestly by a different painter, who is frequently taken to have been Cicognara. This, if true, would be an astonishing coincidence. For reasons of dating, it would imply that the six cards were painted to replace Bonifacio's originals, which had been lost or damaged. They are here argued to have been by Benedetto Bembo, Bonifacio's brother, and are therefore themselves the original cards.

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