Directly related to this article is the essay El Bagatella which is the symbol of sin to which we refer for complete information.
Poi ch’io sento chiarlare le persone
qual dicon ch’io non vaglio un bagatino
e ch’io non son un barbaro, ma un cozzone.
I hear peple speaking on me
saying that I am a man of a little value
an that I am not a barbarian, but a goat.
Giulio Cesare Croce
The anonymous monk, author of Sermones de Ludo, calls this triumph El Bagatella (the Trifle), defining it with the writing “est omnium inferior” (it is the most inferior among all), to mean its lowest importance in the game, a judgement that coincided with the represented personage, a “bagattegliere”, considered of very small state, a vile person (see the below Addenda).
Bagatella (trifle) is an ancient Italian word, which is still used nowadays, it means “a thing of little importance”.
It also has two meanings: conjuring trick - sleight of hand and deceit - and fraud. This word was used in these senses by many Italian authors, such as Aretino, Ariosto, and Vasari.
Aretino writes in his Astolfeida “a delightful work to read, containing life and facts about all the French paladins, and about the birth of the Maganza House, about who Gano was and about the noble condition of his genealogy, wonderful fact of love, and great battles of Orlando and Rinaldo”: “Vivian vivachiava a scrocco in corte, / con tutti alzando il fianco a corpo sciolto; / Guicciardo, Alardo mai uscir le porte / di Montalban, che no li fussi tolto; mastro di spirti e bagatelle a sorte fu Malagigi, e cangiò forma e volto,/ come fean mastro Iaco e mastro Muccio / in Roma trarre ' ognun fino al cappuccio” (Vivian lived scrounging off the court guzzling with everybody without measure; as Guicciardino and Alardo left the ancestral castle of Montalbano it was immediately conquered by enemies; Malagigi was a magician and conjurer and changed features and face like Iaco and Muccio in Rome who through deception stripped anyone from head to feet). (First Canto, 24).
La Cassaria was first written by Ariosto in prose, then in verses between 1528 and 1529. Its title comes from a box which is at the centre of the plot. The action develops in the Greek town of Metellino, and is nourished by the gags of two cunning servants, Volpino and Fulcio. These are the verses spoken by Volpino concerning this word: “Anzi l’ora è senza dubbio / Più presta che ’l bisogno e il desiderio / Nostro non era: anzi non potea giungere / Più a tempo. Venga, venga pur, che acconciomi / Son con la tasca, et un giuoco apparecchioli / Di bagatelle, il più bello e mirabile / Che si vedesse mai” (It is the right time with no doubt / Earlier than need and desire / It was not ours: rather it could not come / Later. Come, come, I’m ready / I’ve got a pocket, and a ready game / Of trifles, the most beautiful and admirable / that were ever seen). (Act IV – Scene II)
Vasari, referring to the painter Giovannantonio known as “Il Soddoma da Verzelli”: “He loved jokes and what he cared about most was to dress in a pompous way, wearing brocade jackets, golden cloaks, rich bonnets, necklaces and other similar trifles, things good for buffoons and charlatans” (Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the most excellent painters, sculptors, and architects, 1550).
In Milanese dialect the word bàgát means chatterbox and the expression scart bàgát means to make a long speech, as those who undertake the prestigious medieval (and also those of today) to enchant the audience.
The figure of the Magician, an illusionist or clever talker, is represented in the Visconti Sforza Tarots as a richly dressed character, sitting near a table, on which there are many objects, in his hand he is holding a wand, a typical instrument for this profession (figure 1).
I don’t think that statements about this figure, and about the one of Este Tarots (figure 2), that refer to a table for dinner, are exact, because of the objects on the table, because of what the Magician is holding in his hands in Este Tarots, and also because the word Bagattella means thing of little importance, and refers to those engaged in such an activity.
I would say that the food, glass and knife on the table of the Visconti Sforza Tarots deck are the objects on which the illusionist will act, or will use to surprise. It would not be easy to understand why there is a wand in the illusionist hand who, certainly would not be sitting to eat with such a cumbersome thing, unless it was to be use for something else.
People in the Middle-Ages seemed to have an ambivalent attitude towards jugglers (the term conjurer is modern). Their shows ware generally well accepted, but their methods were often condemned by people of the Church and lawyers who decided to forbid them from doing their shows in some towns. In 1250, Luigi XI for example, forbade the entrance of acrobats and conjurers into different French cities. It was a very confused period, full of superstitions and fears of the occult, of witches and of demons and a man able to cut and restore a cloth handkerchief could easily be accused of being in league with the devil.
The amazement that, for example, the conjuring trick, the most known and practiced in Europe, could arouse, can be deduced by the picture of amazement painted on the face of a bystander (figure 3) in Bosch’s work which today is called “The conjurer” (figure 4).
There is a juggler with a typical minstrel’s beret in the card in the Rosenwald deck (figure 5). I think it is possible to find a connection between the professional values of the ability of the juggler and those of the Artixan, in the third card of the Mantegna Tarots (figure 6), identified by Hind as a jeweller, without having to resort to implications of a philosophical nature.
Finally, we have to remember that the activity of the jugglers was considered amongst those protected by the Moon, as we find in a miniature of the Codex De Sphaera (figura 7 - The Children of the Moon, cod. east, lat. 209, XV century) present in the Estense Library in Modena and in an incision from the series of the Planets of the Mittelalterliches Hausbuch (The Book of the House) from the same century (figure 8 - The Children of the Moon).
Even if it doesn't expressly concern this Triumph from the iconographic point of view, I think it could be interesting to know the following writings that I report from the work Il Serraglio de gli stupori del mondo (The Managerie of the amazaments of the world) by Thomaso Garzoni da Bagnacavallo, a 1585 work and this for three motives: the first one is to understand the attitude that Renaissance men assumed before games and the conjurers; the second because appears the word bagatteglieri in reference to those people who developed such activity and the third one for two examples that the author refers about the Renaissance tricks effected with cards.
The complete title of the work is “The menagerie of the amazements of the world, by Tomaso Garzoni from Bagnacavallo. Divided in the ten orders, according to the various, & admirable objects. That is of monsters, prodigies, tricks, destinies, oracles, sibyls, dreams, astrological curiosity, miracles in general, and wonders in particular, narrated by the most famous writers, and described by the most historians and poets, which sometime happen, considering their probability, or improbability, according to nature. A not less erudite work, and curious, so it is for theologians... as for philosophers... enriched of various notes by the Bartolomeo Garzoni his brother... With three plentiful plates”.
The passages reported below belong to the edition printed in Venice by “Ambrosio, et Bartolomeo Dei, brothers. At the St. Mark library, 1613”
IT BEGINS THE PRESTIGIOUS ORDER OF THE AMAZING MENAGERIE
DIVIDED IN VARIOUS STANZAS
Curious certain, amazing, & without doubt desired by everyone it is the matter of tricks; because everyone wants to fulfil its own intellect understanding the way, with which are made endless appearances to their eyes, & of that other so much marvellous, that the minds are amazed in certain way, & to gaze at, however now I’m going to make an effort to show industriously the truth of the things with brevity, and with distinction at the same time in the most possible way in this detail (page. 224).
Its inventor [of the trick] (says the same [Pico della Mirandola]) was Mercury, and to me this means what he intends about bad trick. Whence it is to note, that there are various kinds of tricks; there is one strong, that is called appearance, or juggling trick prestige, to practices as comedy and by vile people, such as from Charlatans and triflers, on the squares, & in taverns, and even by noble people...(page 225)
Only Cardano non ignoble Author of our days has discovered something about the inventions of these people in the book De Mirabilibus & in different other books for he has been a man curious of all the kinds of professions. In that book he mentions Francesco Somma Napolitano a noble young man 22 years old very virtuous, & handsome and expert of juggling: as what (he says) he does, among many things, games of cards only before noble people, he scattered the cards on the table, & spread them, grouped together, and order to take one of them, & to hide it, & then he took the pack of the cards, he shuffled, & he exactly guessed the one it was, the hidden one: and besides (the greatest wonder) set the card in the pack, and after having put it down, he ordered, to one or another person to choose one of them, and this happened, that lifting the card it was always the same, as he was striven to pull out from the pack just that one (page 225).
Such game judged by Cardano a work of human juggling and not diabolic, it has also been done at my presence by kind Mr. Abramo Colorni previously mentioned, together with other very amazing as well: for example when from the pack of German cards he gave in the hands of a gentleman a card of the seed of flowers and, removing his hand, he made appear one of spades.
While another time, and the thing was still more amazing, he gave two different cards in the hands of another, made him close them in his breast saying to think about something that concerned him, and finally he proposed a game, that if he wanted to choose the first as the card corresponding to the one he had thought, unless he preferred the second one. Having decided for the second, he first pull out the seed of spades he had put in his breast, but pulling out the second, he found a white one with capital letters that was related to what he had thought, so that gentleman blushed for the joke (page 226).