Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Van Rijnberk's Mysterious Papesse

I recently got a copy of a mid-20th century French Tarot classic, Gérard van Rijnberk's Le Tarot: Histoire, Iconographie, Esotérisme.

He includes a plate of four images of "La Papesse", the Popess (not the trump, but Pope Joan).

Numbers 2 and 3 are familiar enough to people who have looked for images of Pope Joan, and according to van Rijnberk number 4 comes from a Chronicle of Cologne of the late 15th century.

But what interests me is number 1. Van Rijnberk attributes it to a different edition of the source of number 2, namely Jacopo Filippo Foresti's De claris sceletisque mulieribus (Ferrara, 1497). More precisely, in his caption for the figure he writes:
X. La Papesse. 1. Dans le livre de Forestus Bergomensis "De claris mulieribus, 1497. 2. Dans une autre édition du même livre que Von Spanheim a eue entre les mains.

His bibliography lists two editions of Frédéric de Spanheim, Histoire de la Papesse Jeanne, fidélement tirée de la dissertation latine, both printed in La Haye, in 1720 and 1736 respectively.

Google Books has 3 editions of this book - the first, in 1694 in one volume, is not illustrated. The second is Van Rijnberk's 1720 edition, in two volumes, and includes this illustration in vol. I between pages 194 and 195:
There are no illustrations in volume II, and there is nothing corresponding to Van Rijnberk's image 1.

Google Books doesn't have the edition of 1736, but it does have another from 1758, also printed in La Haye. The corresponding image in volume I here is the same composition, but redrawn (Schedel's Popess with Baby is looking to the left instead of right, for instance):
Again, in this edition, nothing corresponding to Van Rijnberk's first Papesse.

What about J.-F. Foresti (Bergamensis)' book? Maybe in another edition of that?

As far as I can tell, the first edition of that book was 1497, and the only woodcut I've ever seen from there is Van Rijnberk's number 2. Both Von Spanheim's and Van Rijnberk's are recreations (and Von Spanheim's is more elegant than the original, in my opinion) of the original, which has been reproduced by Andrea Vitali et al. in several publications:

It seems that Van Rijnberk misremembered (as I have found he sometimes does) the source of his Papesse number 1.

Where did she come from? I don't know.

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