Trionfi (cards)

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Trionfi (Italian: [triˈomfi], 'triumphs') are 15th-century Italian playing cards with allegorical content related to those used in tarocchi games.


The earliest known use of the name "Trionfi" can be dated to 16 September 1440 in the records of a Florentine notary, Giusto Giusti.[1] He recorded a transaction where he transferred two expensive personalized decks to Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta.

A letter from November 1449[2] from the Venetian Antonio Jacopo Marcello used the expression for a deck that was produced 1425 or earlier. It was commissioned by the duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti, painted by Michelino da Besozzo and described in an accompanying text by Martiano da Tortona.[3] The deck itself is lost, but da Tortona's description[4] offers details about the deck. It likely had a total of 60 cards (four kings, forty number cards and sixteen trumps). The forty four-suited cards used birds as suit signs and the trumps presented sixteen Roman gods.

The names Taraux and Tarocchi appear for the first time in the year 1505 in parallel in Avignon (France) and Ferrara. Around this time, the name Trionfi seems to modify its character in a playing card context; it appears as a game of its own (Rabelais knows a Taraux and a Trionfi game) and seems no longer connected to the specific allegorical cards. This is most likely due to the popularity of Triomphe which usurped the old name. The general English expression "trump card" and the German "trumpfen" (in card games) have developed from the Italian "Trionfi".


The term Trionfi- or any similar term -first appeared in the 15th century. The Tarot cards that are popular today seem to be a version of Trionfi, with motifs and deck structure that vary in some ways. A Ferrarese document from 1457, for example, seems to be a receipt for the production of 2 decks, each of 70 cards—the modern Tarot deck typically has 78.

The first appearance of a deck with 78 cards was in the Boiardo poem Tarocchi, with the first deck thought to have been created between 1461–1494. The deck structure was created according to the Tarot-standard, but the motifs and suits signs of the Boiardo deck are totally different.

Other examples of Trionfi:

  • The Michelino da Besozzo deck was possibly meant to accompany a Trionfi of Filippo Maria Visconti on 2 June 1425.
  • The Cary-Yale deck is estimated to have been produced for the marriage of Bianca Maria Visconti and Francesco Sforza in October 1441.
  • The Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo Tarocchi deck (estimated to be produced 1452) possibly relates to a triumphant activity in Milan, August 1453.
  • The 2 decks from Ferrara in June 1457 (mentioned above) seem to relate to a visit at Ferrara of the young Milanese heir of the dukedom Galeazzo Maria Visconti in July/August 1457[5]
  • Only one note exists about Trionfi cards in Siena, 1451.[6] It is the year of a 4-day celebration for the first meeting between Emperor Fredrick III and his bride, Eleanore of Portugal.
  • Two notes of Naples in 1473[7] and 1474.[8] This is the time when the King of Naples prepared for the marriages of his daughters.
  • It is reported that Bianca Maria Sforza brought cards from Italy to her wedding with Emperor Maximilian in 1494. The cards were intensively discussed and admired at the evening before the wedding night.
  • A German card deck (without any sort of Tarot structure, but preferring the traditional card form) was produced for the marriage of the son of the German emperor to a Spanish princess.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pratesi, Franco. Studies on Giusto Giusti
  2. ^ Translation of letter, by Ross Caldwell
  3. ^ report "The Oldest Tarot Cards", collected by
  4. ^ Translation by Ross Caldwell", collected by
  5. ^ Galeazzo Maria Visconti original text, collected by
  6. ^ Siena Trionfi original text, collected by
  7. ^ Naples 1473 original text, collected by
  8. ^ Naples 1474 original text, collected by
  9. ^ report "The South German Engraver, c.1496", by Simon Wintle

External links[edit]