16 – THE YOUNG MAN AND THE ANGEL – PART 2

Continued from part one.

Maso Finiguerra (Attr.), Justice (?) (c. 1459-1464).

In 2012, referring in a book to the Lovers card in the Tarot of Marseille, I named a niello attributed to the Florentine goldsmith and engraver Maso Finiguerra (1426-1464) as the graphical source of the winged figure occupying the upper part of the card. Isolating one of the angels who holds the canopy under which a feminine figure is seated, I showed that it is just a matter of rotating him a little, putting a bow in his hands and a quiver over his shoulder to obtain the model of the card’s Cupid.[1]

 

Maso Finiguerra (Attr.), Justice (?), detail of an angel (c. 1459-1464).

 

Nicolas Conver, The Lovers, detail of Cupid (1760)

On May 19, 2015, as I was, once again, reviewing the second volume of the irreplaceable Early Italian Engravings by Arthur M. Hind, I was struck by a detail that had escaped me until that day.[2]

Baccio Baldini (Attr.), Youth and girl holding a wreath, c. 1470.

 The image is part of a collection of engravings, executed circa 1470 by a Florentine workshop, in all likelihood that of Baccio Baldini. Such pictures were used to decorate the lids of women’s workboxes or jewelry boxes. Hind noted that these images were probably produced collectively, recognizing in them the work of several hands, among which “may possibly have been that of the young Botticelli”.[3] Round-shaped, this vignette takes over a theme already observed in the early Milanese tarots (see episode 15): the union of a couple under a Cupid. Here, the allusion to a wedding is double: the junction of the hands happens through the bride’s wreath. The winged archer that dominates the scene is undoubtedly the missing link between Finiguerra’s angel and the Cupid in the Lovers card. From the first, he takes the position, the genitals, the wings, and the small clouds on which his feet stand. Furthermore, he carries the bow and quiver that would eventually reappear in the Lovers card.

Baccio Baldini (Attr.), Youth and girl holding a wreath, detail of the Cupid, c. 1470.

These observations allow for inferring the following sequence: Circa 1459-1464 Finiguerra creates his Justice niello. A few years later, in the workshop of his pupil Baldini, the figure of one of the angels is isolated to be reused in the Youth and girl holding a wreath engraving. To transform him into a Cupid, he is equipped with a bow and a quiver. The resulting image is then modified to integrate it into the Lovers card of the Tarot of Marseille. The clouds under his feet are erased, the genitals disappear, and the quiver is moved from one side to the other.

Therefore, it appears that the creator of the Lovers card, taking the model of the Milanese tarot as a starting point, adapted it, inspired by various complementary visual sources. A fourth character was added to the original plan with three figures (a couple under a Cupid).

The Lovers card (left) reconstituted from its sources (right).

[1] See my La scelta di Lorenzo. La Primavera di Botticelli tra poesia e filosofia, Pisa, Fabrizio Serra, 2012, p. 28-29.

[2] Arthur M. Hind, Early Italian Engraving. A critical catalogue with complete reproduction of all the prints described, London, Quaritch, 1938, vol. 2, pl. 144.

[3] Arthur M. Hind, Early Italian Engraving, cit., vol. 1, p. 85.

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