Carte da trionfi: The development of tarot in fifteenth-century Italy

Christina Olsen, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation analyzes the development and play of tarot cards (carte da trionfi) in fifteenth-century Northern Italy, beginning with their origins in playing card decks imported from the Islamic East, then moving to the popularity of tarot decks at the courts of Milan and Ferrara, and concluding with the decline in taste for hand-painted tarot packs after 1500. Through a close examination of images of pastimes, legal and religious treatment of different types of recreation, and game treatises I argue that tarot was ideologically redefined as an aristocratic, moral, and private recreation in opposition to the playing-card deck's associations with the lower classes, gambling, and the public spaces of the city. Final chapters on memory and gender detail tarot's reconceptualization within court culture first as an intellectual and then as a feminine pursuit that shaped "one's character" in moral, social, and sexual terms.

Subject Area

Art History|European history|Recreation

Recommended Citation

Olsen, Christina, "Carte da trionfi: The development of tarot in fifteenth-century Italy" (1994). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9521096.