Andrea Vitali's Historical Essays on the Tarot

The Beauty of My Diva - XVIth century

placed in the Triumphs of the Tarot


Andrea Vitali, April 2023


Translation by Michael Howard



A love poem in octaves in the Vatican Apostolic Library 1 bears the title “The Beauty of my Diva, placed in the Triumphs of the tarot.” Composed by the “Scoundrel of Zampholonia. F. P.,” the style and orthography highlight the era of the sixteenth century. The octaves must have been composed at Carnival time, given the short composition placed at the end dedicated by the author to that festival. Regarding the latter, still signed with the pleasure-loving nickname “Scoundrel of Zampholonia,” from some lines of the octaves we are to understand that he was a musician. So we see of the Sun, "Io cercho il Sole, il Sole, o pur trouato, / Doue ſcaldar ſi po, la Cetra mia, / Et cantar voſtre lode, a me ſia grato, / Per far honor, a queſta Zamphonia” (I look for the Sun, and I have indeed found the Sun / Where my Zither can warm up [i.e. give the rhythm] / And sing your praises, which gratifies me / So as to best give honor to this Zamphonia). Zamphonia should be understood as a symphony in verse in which the praises of the Diva (Lady) are sung.


So also Temperance: Se lo Inſtrumento mio ſuona, & io canto, / E dico tra le belle hauet’ il vanto” (If my Instrument plays, & I sing, / And I say among the beautiful you have the most [temperance]). There is also the Chariot, “Sonando cantarò con dolci tempre” (Playing, I will sing with sweet melodies”), as well as the frontispiece 2 depicting a seated man playing the lute, with a standing personage with a sword listening and a woman at the window. Supporting this setting are some verses dedicated to Carnival (“O Carnovale”) “Hilluſtri, gl’anni, i giorni, l’hore, i pūti, / Carneual’ mio, ch’io cōſumai cō teco / Se da qui inanti, no ſerai piu meco / Con altri ſonator, conuien te Agiunti (You illlustrate the days, the hours, the minutes, / My Carnival, that I consumed with you. / If from now on you won't be with me anymore, / With other musicians, it is better for you to Accompany yourself).


The poem is to be included in the category of the literary sub-genre having the custom of rhyming or versifying the tarot Triumphs by appropriating them to characters of the most diverse social classes 3, with the variant that in this case all the octaves are dedicated to a single woman. It is therefore a unique case in the panorama of Appropriated Tarots.


The order of the octaves highlights a Bolognese origin, given the presence of the three virtues after the Chariot, with some variations: first of all, the World dominates the Angel, which is usually the highest Triumph, while the octave concerning the Popess is missing. The Tower is called Sagieta, a variant of Sagitta never found, while the Bagatto is called Bagatin, a not unusual term.


The absence of the Popess associates this composition with another from Bologna, the  Triompho delle nobili donne di Cesena fati [sic] a significatione dei tarochij (Triumph of the noble women of Cesena, made to signification of the tarocchi), 3 also of 21 stanzas. The reason for this absence has various rationales: first of all, as the author's freedom to avoid cards that are incompatible with his feelings (for example if she had been understood as the Popess Joan); secondly, having to remove a stanza by the simple need for space (in fact, looking at the booklet, the printer used the space on the page as much as possible, printing a few millimeters from the lower and upper edges); finally, considering that the Popess is also missing from the other document cited, it is possible that the author may have referred to a tarot game that did not consider this Triumph. In fact, the decks of this game, in addition to presenting different orders, could differ one to another, depending both on the city in which it was used but also on the areas of the same city where a different custom was in force.


 All the octaves reflect the beauty, honorability and attraction felt by each one towards the Diva: Chi mira i bei, ſembianti, i gesti, e i modi, / Puo dir, Ecco 'langelicha Natura, / Piena, di honeſto Andar” (Whoever observes your beautiful appearance, gestures, and manner / Can say: here is the angelic Nature, /

Full of honest Conduct) (the Angel). In addition to her prerogative of not being subjected to the arrows of Cupid, at times even rendered helpless by her, for this reason reproached in the verses referring to the Traitor (Hanged Man) for calling the God of Love by that epithet, for having his weapons and for despising him, since the despising of others is the harbinger of great evil. An exhortation of the poet addressed to the lady is not to steal the hearts of men, since whoever steals is hanged. In the verses dedicated to the Bagatin (Magician), the praises underline the great ability of the Diva to avoid the deceptions of Love, who tries to pretend what it is not in order to make her fall into his net.


The lines of only one of the octaves, namely those of the Fool, are centered on the sexual attraction that men feel towards women, justified by the beauty of her face and hands that make her resemble Venus, so that the poet considers the man mad who hopes in vain to want to lie with her, "Che vol da voi coſa in honeſta, e brutta" (Who wants from her a thing dishonest and ugly). To all men, designated with the vulgar term uccelli (birds), as well as the poet himself, when they want to woo her, there will be nothing left but a silent song, that is, to look at her without speaking: "Cantaran come me forsi alla Mutta" (They sing as if mute). It will not be possible to obtain anything else from the woman's love but to give her praise and all honor.


Below is the list of Triumphs:


Mondo (World)

Angelo (Angel = Judgment)

Sole (Sun)

Luna (Moon)

Stella (Star)

Sagieta (Lightning-Bolt = Tower)

Demonio (Demon = Devil)

Morte (Death)

Traditor (Traitor = Hanged Man)

Vecchio (Old Man = Hermit)

Rota (Wheel = Wheel of Fortune)

Iusticia (Justice)

Forza (Strength)

Temperanza (Temperance)

Carro (Chariot)

Amor (Love = Lover, Lovers)

Papa (Pope = Hierophant)

Imperatore (Emperor)

Imperatrice (Empress)

Bagatin (Magician)

Matto (Madman = Fool)


In transcribing the composition that follows, we have preserved the original orthography.


         M O N D O 

Ecco il ſpecchio ch’il Mōdo, impe, & alluma

        Con gratia, con virtu, con la Bellezza,

Ecco vn ’bel uiso, a ſpenachiar la piuma,

          Al Dio d’ Amor, con mirabil’ destrezza

De si gran marauiglia, non coſtuma

         Il mondo hauer, che per diua vi aprezza,

Ben puo chiamarſi, felice & giocondo,

         Chi ve aſſomiglia, alla belta del Mondo.



Here is the mirror that rules & illuminates the World

      With grace, with virtue, with Beauty,

Here a beautiful face to pluck the feather

      Of the God of Love with admirable dexterity.

Of such great magnificence, he is not used to

      The world praising you as Diva.

One can well be called happy and light-hearted

      Who compares you to the beauty of the World.


           A N G E L O 

Chi mira i bei, ſembianti, i geſti, e i modi,

          Puo dir, ecco ’langelicha Natura,

Piena, di honeſto Andar, che ſoglie, i nodi,
         S’avien ch’Amor contra di voi procura,

Forza non hanno, gl’amoroſi frodi,

         Che’l ciel’ el mondo, ben guarda e miſura,

La pura volonta, Diuo concetto,

         Vi fa parer vn’Angelo in effetto.



Whoever observes your beautiful appearance, gestures, and manner

      Can say: here is the angelic Nature,

Full of honest Conduct that resolves situations.

      If it happens that Love moves against you,

His amorous deceptions have no strength,

       For heaven and the world well observe and measure

Your pure will, Divine concept.

      Which makes you seem in effect an Angel.


         S O L E

Io cercho il Sole, il Sole, o pur trouato,

         Doue ſcaldar ſi po, la Cetra mia,

Et cantar voſtre lode, a me ſia grato,

         Per far honor, a queſta Zamphonia,

E ben ſi puo chiamar lieto, e beato,

         Che poſſa al Sole, de voſtra ſignoria,

Altro Sol, non o viſto oggi, ne mai,

         Ne di piu bel’ ſplendor chiaro cantai.



I look for the Sun. and I have indeed found the Sun

      Where my Zither can warm up [i.e., give the rhythm]

And sing your praises, which gratifies me,

      So as to best honor this Symphony,

And one can well be called happy and blessed

      Who may [enjoy] your ladyship’s Sun.

Another Sun I have not seen today, nor ever,

     Nor did I sing of a clear splendor more beautiful.


         L V N A 

Sotto felice phato de la Luna,

         Formata foſti, veneranda Dea,

A cui non puo, ne ſorte, ne fortuna,

         Al ſecol noſtro ſpecchio, & vera idea,

Doue ſete, ſe a caſo il ciel s’imbruna,

         L’aurora vien non piu come ſolea,

Ch’il lume de la Luua [sic] intorno hauete,

         Perche ſi gratioſa al mondo ſete.



Under the happy influence of the Moon

      You were formed, venerable Goddess,

Whom neither fate nor fortune can influence.

      In our century mirror and true ideal

Wherever you are, if by chance the sky gets cloudy

      [And] the dawn no longer comes as usual,

You have the light of the moon around you

      Because you look so lovely to the world.


          S T E L L A

 Stella nel Ciel non e lucida tanto,

         Qual voi Madonna generoſa e bella,

Et fra laltre honorate hauete il vanto,

         Come vnica a noi lucida ſtella,

Se quel che dir vorrei, tutto non canto,

         Apena ardiſco a ragionar di quella,

Alla qual’ Reuerentia, fo cantando,

         Et come ſervo, a voi mi racomando.



No star in the sky is so bright

      As you, generous and beautiful Madonna,

And among all other honored women you have the merit

      Of being for us the only shining star.

If in what I would like to say, I do not sing everything,

      I hardly dare to think about the one

To whom I make Reverence singing,

      And as a servant, I recommend myself to you.


         S A G I E T A

 Come Saetta, o ver’ fulgur di Ioue,

         Il voſtro guardo, paſſa ogni dur core,

Che ſene vede, cento millia proue,

         E l’arco, e la ſaetta, leui Amore,

Et le gentil’ ſembianze che commoue,

         A mantener con Arte il voſtro honore,

Faſsi pur degli Aſſalti, il fanciul ciecho,

         Che poco o quaſi nulla, auanza teco.



As lightning, or true thunderbolt of Jove,

       Your gaze pierces every hard heart,

As shown by a hundred thousand examples.

       And the bow and arrow Love raises,

And your gentle features that move,

       Artfully maintaining your honor;

Let the blind boy yet attack,

       Little or almost nothing moves toward you.


          D E M O N I O 

El Diauolo con Arte e con Ingegno,

         Non a forza di farui, oltraggio o torto,

Che voi con lopre, rompe il ſuo diſegno,

         Lo andar honeſto, il bel parlar accorto,

Contra di voi, lo ſpirito malegno,

         Non ſumerſſe la Naue, eſſendo importo

Però l’honor’, non e da voi diuiſo,

         Che a longo andar haurete il paradiſo.



The Devil with Art and Wit

      Has not the strength to do you outrage or wrong,

Since with your works, your honest conduct,

      Your good wise speech, you break his every design;

Against you, the evil spirit

      Did not sink the Ship, as it is in port,

Because honor has not been separated from you,

      So that in the long term you will have paradise.


         M O R T E

La Morte, non harà mai tanta forza,

         Ch’a voſtra gran belta, non preſti gl’anni,

Che la voſtra virtu, tanto rinforza,

         Compenſa l’hore, ſenza voſtri danni

Hauete ſi bon vento a proua, & orza,

         Che aſcenderete a piu ſublimi ſcanni,

E ſe vien Morte, nella Etade anticha

         La famma reſtara, per voſtra Amica.



Death will never have enough strength

      To shorten your years, thanks to your beauty,

For your virtue strengthens you so much,

      Compensating for the hours without any damage.

You have such a good wind fore and aft

      That you could ascend to the highest thrones

And if Death comes, in the time of old Age

      Fame will remain as your friend.


              T R A D I T O R

 Voi fate gnerra, al fanciulin d’Amore,

         Tolendo a lui di mano, l’arco el ſtrale,

E peggio lo chiamate, il Traditore,

         Non fate piu di gratia, ſi el beſtiale,

Voi ſete hornata, di tanto fauore

         Che diſpreciar altrui, fate gran male,

Sel cuor robbate altrui fate peccato

         Che chi Robba lo altrui, vien impiccato.



You wage war on the little boy of Love

      Taking the bow and arrow out of his hand

And worse, you call him Traitor.

      Please don't do such a beastly thing again.

You are adorned with so much favor

      That despising others does great harm.

If you steal other people's hearts, you sin,

      For whoever steals from others gets hanged.


             V E C C H I O

 El Tempo che par vecchio, vi conduce

         Al fin, con longa Età, ſana e felice,

Perche voi date eſemplo e chiara luce,

         Al ſecol noſtro, come la phinice,

Perche il fauor celeſte e voſtro duce,

         A cui fortuna, raro mai diſdice,

E però il tempo,vi accompagna, e vole,

         Che di voi naſca, piu famoſa prole.


      OLD MAN

Time, which seems old, leads you

Finally, in old Age, [to be] healthy and happy,

For you set the example clearly

To our century, [to be] like the phoenix,

Since heavenly favor is your guide

To which fortune is seldom adverse.

So that time accompanies you and wants

A famous offspring to be born from you.


             R O T A

 La Ruota di fortuna, fai fermare

         Et girar come vuoi, con ſi bel guardo,

Tu Vener ſei nel viſo, & nel andare,

         Diana, & non ti manca altro che ’l Dardo,

Io temo molto, non poter cantare,

         Le laude tue, con ſtil’ alto & gagliardo,

Perche tu ſtai, con la fortuna, a fronte,

         Et ſei d’ogni vertu, ſi chiaro fonte.



You make the Wheel of Fortune stop

      And spin as you wish, with so beautiful a glance.

You are Venus in the face, and in movement

      You are Diana, and you lack nothing but the arrow.

I'm very afraid I can't sing

      Your praises in a sublime, bold style,

Since you face fortune head-on

      And are such a clear fount of every virtue.


         I V S TI C I A 

Iuſticia hai teco, & le bilanze in mano,

         Et miſuri à tuo modo, Amor, & Fede,

Et vedo certo, ſe affatica in vano,

         Che d’ ingannarti, falſamente crede,

Tanto ſplendor, i tuoi begl’occhi danno,

         Che piu bella Iuſticia, non ſi vede,

Ne forza, ne prudentia, tal ch io trovo,

         Eſſer la tua perſona, vn mondo Nouo.



You have Justice with you and the scales in your hand,

      And you measure according to your way Love and Faith,

And I see as certain that they labor in vain,

      Any who falsely believe they can deceive you.

Your eyes give so much splendor

      That a more beautiful Justice is not seen,

Nor strength, nor prudence [than yours], so much that I find

       Your person to be a New world.


         F O R Z A

Gran’forza hauete voi, gentil ſignora,

         Per virtu, per belta. per nobil Diua,

De la qual gentilmente, ſe inamora,

         Ogni ſpirto gentil, che tra noi viua,

Quaſi per forza, chi ve colle, e adora,

         Conuien che di voi parli, canti, o ſcriva,

Coſi gran forza, e tanta gratia hauete,

         Che temuta, & amata, al mondo ſete.



Great strength you have, gentle lady,

      For virtue, for beauty, for a Diva’s nobility.

Every kind spirit that lives among us,

      With you so amiably in love,

Almost by force, who understands your superiority and adores you,

      Must only talk, sing, or write about you,

You have such great strength and so much grace

      That you are feared and loved by the world.


          T E M P E R A N Z A 

La Temperanza, e pur tutta la voſtra,

         Accompagnarui, con prudentia tale,

Ch’io Cantarò, che qui nel Età noſtra,

         Non è qual voi, temprata alla Regale,

Di ſangue degno, e per natura mostra,

         Hauer al fier Amor, troncate lale,

Se lo Inſtrumento mio ſuona, & io canto,

         E dico tra le belle hauet’ il vanto.



Temperance is all yours, too,

      And she accompanies you with such prudence

That I will Sing that here in our Age

      No one is like you, tempered in Regal style,

Of worthy blood, and by your nature showing

      That you’ve clipped the wings of proud Love.

If my Instrument plays and I sing,

      I say that among the beautiful you have the most [temperance].


          C A R R O

 Quel Carro, onde Phetonte troppo ardito,

         Cade, e per voi, che triomphar poſſete,

O in carro, o in terra. Ogn’ un vi moſtra à dito,

         Et dirò ecco, lamoroſa Rete,

L andar, lo ſtar, il bel parlare gradito

         Con marauiglia, voi mirata ſete,

Et io Madonna voſtre laude ſempre,

         Sonando cantarò con dolci tempre.



That Chariot from which Phaeton, too ardent,

      Falls, and as for you who can triumph

Either in a chariot or on the ground, everyone points at you [for this reason].

      And I will say: here is the loving Net,

Going, staying, nicely speaking welcome,

      With wonder, you are admired,

And I, Madonna, with my music will always

      Sing your praises with sweet melodies.


         A M O R

 Madonna Io, sò, che cognoſcete Amore,

         A ben che lo ſprezate, alcuna volta,

Lo fate accio, non ſia ſuperiore,

         Et che la liberta, non vi ſia tolta,

Ma la voſtra belta, con lo ſplendore,

         De tanti Inamorati, fa raccolta

E queſto vien, che mirandoui in viſo,

         Si vede Amor, con voi nel paradiſo.



Madonna, I know that you know Love

      And though you have sometimes despised him,

You did so in order that he not feel superior [to you who are accompanied by every virtue],

      And that your freedom not be taken away.

But your beauty and your splendor

      Gathers many lovers

And this happens because whoever looks at your face,

      Sees Love with you in paradise.


               P A P A

 Queſta voſtra beltade, accompagnata

       D’ogni virtu, non e coſa mortale,

Perche tra l’altre, ſete piu honorata,

      Come ſe foſti, vn parato papale,

E per queſto la ſorte, va adorata,

      Moſtrando quanto à forza, e quanto vale,

Se foſti vn homo, come donna ſete,

      D’eſſer papa, potreſti, oprar la Rete.



This beauty of yours, accompanied

      By every virtue, is not a thing for mortals,

Because among others you are the most honored,

      As if you were a papal ornament,

And for this, fate has adored you

      Showing how much strength you have and how much value.

If you were a man, as you are a woman now,

      By becoming pope, you could cast your own Net.


            I M P E R A T O R E

Sotto l’Imperator, noſtro Monarca

      Non à nel Regno ſuo, piu bel aſpetto,

Di virtu hornata, e di bonta ſi carcha,

      Sana del corpo, & pura d’intelletto,

Voi ſomigliate in alto mar la Barca

       Che non ſtima, ne venti, ne ſoſpetto,

Piaciaui adonque, poi ch’io canto il vero

       Ch’io vi ſia ſervo ſempre come ſpero.



Under the Emperor, our Monarch,

      There is no more beautiful appearance in his Kingdom than yours.

Adorned with virtue and so full of goodness,

      Healthy in body, and pure in intellect.

You are like the Boat on the high seas,

      That esteems neither winds nor fears.

May it please you, therefore, since I sing the truth,

      That I be your servant forever, as I hope.


              I M P E R A T R I C E

 Madonna il ſtato voſtro, e pur felice,

         Di grandezza di, honor, arte, & ingegno,

Meritatamente, come Imperatrice,

         Tenete il loco d’amoroſo Regno

E ſe piu inalto, il mio cantar vi lice,

         E ſol ch’io temo, non paſſar il ſegno,

Conſeruateui pur, in queſta Etade,

         Et come Imperatrice in maieſtade.



Madonna, your state is also happy

      For greatness, honor, and ingenuity.

Deservedly, as Empress,

      You hold the place of loving Kingdom,

And if higher up my singing seems right to you,

      I fear I fall short [being too low for your royalty],

Preserve yourself so in this Age

      As Empress in Majesty.


                B A G A T I N 

Amor pò ben bagattelar con voi,

         Finger quel che non e, per inganarui,

Et voi fugite queſti inganni ſoi,

         Tal ch’al fin è sforzato, ancho a laudarui,

Io non ſon ſolo, perche tutti noi,

         Di gratia abbian pur troppo à dominarui

Voi ſete vn fior’ Amarante, o Iacinto

         Che la preſentia ſempre amore a vinto.



Love may well mess [bagattare] with you,

      Pretend what is not, to deceive you,

And you flee these deceptions of his,

      So much that in the end he is even forced to praise you.

I am not alone, because all of us,

      Kindly forgive us, also want too much to dominate you,

You are an Amaranth or Hyacinth flower

      Whose presence always conquers love.


              M A T T O 

Pazzo inſenſato, e quel che ſpera in vano,

         Che vol da voi coſa in honeſta, e brutta,

Perche mirando il viſo, e poi la mano,

         Vede venere bella tutta tutta,

E gli vccelli ch’intorno a voi verranno,

         Cantaran come me forſi alla Mutta,

Et altro non ſi tien del voſtro amore,

         Eccetto che lodarui, & farui honore.



A senseless, crazy man is he who hopes in vain

      To want from you something dishonest and ugly,

Because gazing at your face and then your hand

       He sees beautiful Venus entirely.

And the birds that will come around you

      Will sing like me perhaps Silently.

And nothing more can be achieved from your love,

      Except to praise and honor you


In the poem dedicated to Carnival, the author, after thanking it for the many amusements it had provided, expresses the feeling of having to give up his revelry, the crapula that never subsided over the years, apologizing, if at the time he is writing he would not have been with this companion. Perhaps out of fear of death, or rather of hellish torments, considering it a sin "To serve a God so gluttonous and profane," the author, who signs himself "The Imprudent lout,” expresses with that adjective the feeling of his being a lost soul (l’alma persa) in search of redemption.


This sonnet highlights the period of the year in which the author wrote the octaves dedicated to his Diva, undoubtedly an exercise in style motivated by the desire to sing the pure and uncontaminated beauty detached from the pleasurable and sometimes murky aspects of Carnival. The octave of the Fool is emblematic of this, where he calls crazy those who dared to try the honesty of the woman, worthy of being praised and honored instead.




Hilluſtri, gl’anni, i giorni, l’hore, i pūti,

         Carneual’ mio, ch’io cōſumai cō teco

         Se da qui inanti, no ſerai piu meco

         Con altri ſonator, conuien te Agiunti

Però tien cura ormai, de tuoi congiunti

         O ſia barbaro, o Italico, o bon Greco

         Haurai, miglior fortuna ſtando ſeco

         Aleſcandoli in bere, in carne, & unti

Le uer, ch’io ti Rengratio che mai dato

         Occaſion, di uiuer, lieto. & ſano

         Et io cantando, t’o ſempre honorato

Hor’ da qui inanti, lo intelletto in uano,

         Non intende operar, che glie peccato

         Seruire, un’Dio ſi goloſo & prophano.


                   Lo Imprudente uilano


  Che lauora il terreno alla Rouerſa

                Al fine, alla fatica, e lalma perſa.


                        I L  F I N E


      O CARNIVAL [the poet is addressing Carnival]


You illustrate the years, days, hours, minutes,

      My Carnival, that I consumed with you.

      If from now on you won't be with me anymore,

      With other musicians, it is better that you accompany yourself.

But now take care of those who join with you,

      Whether they be barbarian, Italian, or a good Greek.

      You will have better luck being with them,

      Luring them with drink, with meat, and with fat.

Truly, I Thank you for giving me

      Occasion to live happy and healthy,

      And I, singing, I have always honored you.

Now, henceforth, the intellect, of no avail,

      Does not intend to operate, because it is a sin

      To serve a God so gluttonous and profane.


      The Imprudent boor


Who works Backwards

           In the end, toward fatigue and a lost soul.


                               THE END




1. Stamp. Ross.6179. We thank Simone Olini of the Restoration Laboratory of the Vatican Apostolic Library for letting us know this unpublished text.

2. The title page is visible at the link 

3. See Tarot in Literature I

4See Triompho delle nobili donne di Cesena mentioned in the text.


Copyright Andrea Vitali © All rights reserved 2023