Thursday, 30 April 2009

Juego de naipes update

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de Stúñiga, but only in a manuscript at the University of Salamanca, (Ms. 2763), which Marino says is unedited (unpublished in full), but which at least appears in some form in her preferred source for the poem, María Jesús Díez Garretas, La obra literaria de Fernando de la Torre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

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)

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.


Michael J. Hurst said...

Hi, Ross,

As I understand it, this was a literary work, kind of a cross between an historiated deck (like the regular French-suited cards with legendary figures as court cards) and an appropriati, with cards devoted to living people. You note that Marino mentions Boiardo -- does she say anything specific about the Boiardo/Viti Tarot as related to these figures? Does she discuss the other two traditions, regular cards and appropriati? Does she compare the list of figures with any source like Boiardo, or Boccaccio, or draw any conclusions about the selections made?

Do you see any specific connections that might suggest an actual influence from a particular early work or tradition, or just a parallel invention?

Best regards,

Unknown said...

Hi Michael,

I like your (?) term, "historiated deck". That's actually a very good way to think about playing cards - a text.

No, she doesn't try to compare the Boiardo/Viti and De la Torre decks directly. The focus of her analysis is the court cards of this deck only, but I suspect she knows it deserves a much deeper discussion, putting it in context within ludology. So far it is unknown to playing card historians - Denning complained that playing card historians ignored Spain, and for all his effort even he didn't know about this.

As for De la Torre's inspiration, given his travels in Italy, it is easy to suppose an exposure to Tarot or a trump game with extra cards. But only one? And why an Emperor - rather than an Empress? (Given the subjects of this deck)

I don't know - if by "parallel invention" you mean independent and uninfluenced, I don't think that is more plausible than his having been influenced by card games he saw during his travels. I suppose the simple idea of a "super-card", with or without detailed knowledge of Tarot or Karnoffel of whatever, could explain it. In Constance or Italy, given his obvious partying, he would have encountered such a game.


Nancy said...


I am the Nancy Marino who wrote this article. You seem to have answered your own questions concerning the Juego de Naipes, but if I can be of further assistance please let me know. The article appeared in a journal of medieval Spanish studies, which assumes (maybe not correctly) that the readers need no translation, which is why there are none in the article.


SteveM said...

"And why an Emperor - rather than an Empress?"

Strange 'gender' swapping in the courts too - the Kings representing famous women - can the words translated as 'Emperor' and 'King' be understood in medieval Spanish in a non-gender specific fashion such as 'soveriegn' ?

Nancy said...

Like most Spanish words, these are gender-specific. Emperor is Emperador, while Empress is Emperatriz, etc. Monarch (Monarca) is gender-neutral, but it is not used in this work. In this society men were criticized for being feminine (ie, passive) and woman for being masculine (ie, taking on male roles such as sovereign). But in a courtly game like this one it would have been just part of the general frivolity and not to be taken too seriously.


Ross G.R. Caldwell said...

Thank you very much for writing, Nancy!

I hesitate to ask for further help, since it would be for so much, and I have a lot of background study to do before I could ask the right questions. One simple question is - who is the Knave of Cups?

I'm glad you found my blog. I had considered writing you, but I got a copy of your article from a friend at Oxford first.

I don't think La Corònica is wrong to assume Spanish literacy in its readers! It is up to us who would use it to gain that literacy. Nevertheless, I think this text deserves a wider public - as I have noted, none of the standard playing card literature, even that devoted to Spanish playing cards, knows of it. Playing card history is a small field with few and infrequent essential publications, but this text has been in print for over a century, so it is high time it was brought to the attention of specialists who can put it in context.

It would be good to have your work on this text in an anthology of early literary expositions of card games, such as Marziano da Tortona's Sexdecim heroum, Boiardo, and some of Ringhieri's games. The most interesting part of your paper was of course the discussion of the court cards in the context of Fernando's life and works and contemporary Castilian court culture.

Nancy said...

If I remember correctly the Knave of Cups also has to do with the murder. I'll have to check the full text, which contains the instructions to the artist, when I go to my office tomorrow. I'm glad that you have found the article worthwhile. It took me about two years to figure out all the references, puns, etc, then try to place it in playing-card context. It has given me a lot of "fan mail," something that academics don't generally get. We often wonder how many people read our work, so it's wonderful to see that this has gone outside the usual Hispanomedievalist readership.

You will be interested to know that there is another poetic card game, "El juego trovado" (or "trobado) written during the era of Ferdinand and Isabella (most likely in 1496 or so), which was first published in a collection of poems (Cancionero General) in 1511. Its author is Geronimo ( or Jeronimo) Pinar. There is an article or two published about it, all in Spanish I think. I have one of them in my office and can scan it if you'd like. Do you read Spanish at all?

If you put "juego trobado" "pinar" into Google books you find some basic info, especially in Ronald Surtz's book on the birth of a theater.


Ross G.R. Caldwell said...

My email for scans and attachments should be will also work, but I think I have much less space available there