Thanks to my good friend Robert, I was able to get a copy of Nancy Marino’s article Fernando de la Torre’s “Juego de naipes”, A Game of Love (La Corónica 35.1 (Fall 2006): 209-47), mentioned in the last post.
Her paper has answered a good number of the questions that I had, as well as providing a bibliography to follow up on. Unfortunately she didn’t provide any translations, but her descriptions – along with a sincere attempt at understanding the original language on the reader’s part - are more than adequate to get a sense of the passages she quotes.
Some important points for me –
1. The name of the “Countess of Castañeda” to whom the game-poem was dedicated – “Mencía Enríquez de Mendoza, a noblewoman of the Castilian Court.” (p. 209)
2. A terminus a quo for the composition – the poem alludes to an event which took place in 1448, and the composition of the book in which it was included was sent before the end of the 1450s, so it was written sometime in that ten-year period (pp. 209 and 230).
3. A hint at the biography of Fernando de la Torre, which is contained in two books, neither of which is available for sale at a reasonable price nor in libraries accessible to me – Marino at least indicates that he “studied in Florence and attended the Council of Basel” (p. 210), and was later involved in diplomatic missions to France and activity around the border with France, indicating his wide travels.
4. “[T]he object of the game was to trump the other competitor’s cards, suggested in the ‘Juego’ by the supremacy of the Emperor card” (pp. 239-240).
5. The descriptions of the court cards are missing in the version that I transcribed. It is not contained in the manuscript of the Cancionero de Stúñiga, but only in a manuscript at the University of Salamanca, (Ms. 2763), which Marino says is unedited (unpublished in full), but which at least appears in some form in her preferred source for the poem, María Jesús Díez Garretas, La obra literaria de Fernando de la Torre (Valladolid, U de Valladolid, 1983) (p. 236).
6. The Emperor card represented the Countess of Castañeda herself, and does indeed win over all the other cards (pp. 215-216).
7. The court cards were contemporary or legendary figures, as follows:
Swords : King – Abbess of the Monastery of Santa Maria la Real de las Huelgas Knight – King of Castilla Knave – a procession of gentlemen and ladies in pairs
Clubs (Bastones): King – Pantasilea, Queen of the Amazons Knight – Judith Knave – Dido
Cups: King – Lucretia Knight – Don Fernán Alonso (infamous for killing his adulterous wife and four others in 1448) Knave – (Marino neglects to mention who it is)
Coins: King – The Lady of the Lake Knight – Ghismonda Knave – Vidus (legendary character)
These are described and their significance explored on pages 217-233.
8. The games “Trintin” and “Perseguera” seem to be unmentioned anywhere but here (p. 239).
9. The phrase “es major el carnero que la gallina” does appear to be proverbial, as Eugim in a comment to the previous post notes. “This expression seems to be proverbial, but has not been documented in any of the collections of refranes. In Calderón de la Barca’s El Alcalda de Zalamea the soldiers sing a jacara which contains the lines ‘Huéspeda, mátame una gallina, / que el carnero me hace mal’ (Acto I, vv. 111-12). Beyond the issue of indigestion caused by the tough meat lies the sexual pun of wanting to avoid being cuckolded. Fernando de la Torre turns this saying around, apparently to allow the possibility of engaging in love affairs with married women” (p. 230).
10. Marino takes the injunction “y demás, puédense conoscer quáles son mejores amores, sin aver respecto a lo que puede contescer (proverb about carnero and gallina), y puédense echar suertes en ellos a quien más ama cada uno, e a quien quiere más… “ to be “an unmistakable allusion to the use of playing cards for fortune-telling, perhaps the earliest such reference in Spain” (p. 240). She does not provide a translation, so here is my most diplomatic attempt: “and otherwise, so that the best kinds of loves can be known, without concern for the consequences (proverb about carnero and gallina), then they can cast sorts in them for whom anyone most loves, and for whom they most desire…” If this is accurate, then it appears to counsel drawing a card and reading the inscription to know about the suitability or potential ("without regard for the consequences") of a love interest.
11. Marino devotes a paragraph to the comparison begging to be made with Matteo Maria Boiardo's Cinque Capituli (p. 240).
Overall this is a very interesting text that is both much in need of a translation as well as an analysis from a playing-card history perspective. Nancy Marino's paper is an excellent place to begin.