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Collections | Medieval & Renaissance Manuscripts

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Queen of Swords image

Queen of Swords
Bonifacio Bembo or family
Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards
Italy, Milan, ca. 1450
173 x 87 mm
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911; MS M.630 (no. 23)
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Although tarot cards originated about 1425–50 in Milan or Ferrara, they were not generally used for fortune-telling until the 1780s. Fifteenth-century painted tarot cards are exceedingly rare, and no complete deck (seventy-eight cards) survives. The cards have been attributed to Bonifacio Bembo and his family. Bembo was the favorite painter of Bianca Maria Visconti, and it seems likely that the deck was made for her and her husband, Francesco Sforza (1401–1466), whose betrothal (1432) and marriage (1441) united the two families and whose emblems and devices are intermingled on some cards.

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Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.