The virtues

Discussions of the arcane symbols of Tarot and other decks
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Symbols appear on each and every tarot card - visual signs that convey meaning. Some of them are highly individual and personal, others time-honored and traditional. Some are easy to understand, others difficult and multivalent. In this forum, we want to study symbols from different decks, traditions and cultures together using books, websites, lwbs and our own intuition.
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Nemia
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The virtues

Post by Nemia » 23 Sep 2017, 07:31

Here we enter the territory of groups of symbols, called emblems. In the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Early modern era, most people knew the basic symbols and emblems that we part of Christian iconography. We easily recognize whether a shoe is Nike or Adidas just by deft visual clues called logos, and an observer in the 17th century could easily recognize a symbolic depiction of an essential virtue in a painting like Vermeer's Glass of Wine.

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A woman drinking wine - with a man dressed in street clothes, i.e., a visitor - a risky situation. In front of her is a stained glass window with a motif she should take to heart:

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This is Temperance, the virtue of moderation, who mixes wine and water.

Books like Cesare Ripa's Iconologia collected such emblems or allegories, i.e., visual depictions of abstract concepts. An emblem is an assortment of symbols without human figures. In an allegory a human figure, often a young girl, personifies the concept. The things the allegorical figure carries (sword and scales, two jugs) or has with her/him (a lion or lion's skin and club) are the attributes that allow us to identify the allegory.

The virtues are still among the most well-known allegories in the Western world (the Statue of Liberty is another very famous allegory). Many courthouses have a statue of Justitia with her scales and sword, sometimes blindfolded, sometimes not. Here is one from Dublin:

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We know these virtues of course, tarot readers belong to an old fashioned class of people who know to read symbolic language from earlier centuries. We know also Strength or fortitude, either depicted in the Pagan tradition as Hercules or in the Christian tradition as gentle maiden with a lion.

These are the three tarot cards depicting cardinal virtues - but where is the fourth? Traditionally, the cardinal virtues are Fortitude, Justice, Temperance and Prudence, and they are often depicted together. The three Christian virtues are Caritas/Love, Fides/Faith and Spes/Hope, either depicted allegorically as saintly maidens or symbolically as heart, cross and anchor. Together, the Four and Three (oh beautiful symbolism of numbers) make up the Seven Virtues.

But where is the fourth cardinal virtue, Prudence? What do you think?

(to be continued)

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greycats
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Re: The virtues

Post by greycats » 28 Sep 2017, 21:11

Prudence doesn't exactly inspire, does she? That's her in the first illustration. I expect she got subsumed under one of the others. Temperance seems the most likely. I guess Strength is possible, but Strength used to be Faith, no? Neither of them was a bean counter in any case. I've heard of an action being called "just and prudent," but those two states of being are not even close, and in combination they sound like lawyer-talk. Caritas has been upstaged by the Lovers. So, my vote is for Temperance.

The Minchiates survived with their virtues mostly intact. Three of them, as represented by Brian Williams, are shown: 1. Prudence' 2. Strength and 3. Hope, which I included because the posture is that of the figure in PCS's Star which Hope came to be. Lo Scarabeo has published a commemorative deck if anyone wants to own them all. Minchiate decks include Time, Fame, the Elements, Astrological symbols , and the entire Major and Minor arcana. And doubtless some I have forgotten. Sort of gives you an idea of what Renaissance compilers thought would make a great deck of cards. That same notion is not entirely absent from the Majors of the regular Tarot, either.

greycats


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Michael Sternbach
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Re: The virtues

Post by Michael Sternbach » 28 Sep 2017, 21:27

Nemia wrote:
23 Sep 2017, 07:31
These are the three tarot cards depicting cardinal virtues - but where is the fourth? Traditionally, the cardinal virtues are Fortitude, Justice, Temperance and Prudence, and they are often depicted together. The three Christian virtues are Caritas/Love, Fides/Faith and Spes/Hope, either depicted allegorically as saintly maidens or symbolically as heart, cross and anchor. Together, the Four and Three (oh beautiful symbolism of numbers) make up the Seven Virtues.

But where is the fourth cardinal virtue, Prudence? What do you think?

(to be continued)
Just a quick observation: The corresponding cards - 8, 11, 14 - are three cards apart from each other. Continuing the pattern would suggest either The Hierophant or The Star representing Prudence. FWIW.

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CharlotteK
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Re: The virtues

Post by CharlotteK » 29 Sep 2017, 04:22

I did give this some thought and seems to me High Priestess is best fit for Prudence. I'm using the qualities of wisdom, judgement, sagacity and perception for Prudence to come to this conclusion - knowing all, including many mysteries but keeping her own counsel and acting with shrewdness in how she uses this knowledge.

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Nemia
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Re: The virtues

Post by Nemia » 29 Sep 2017, 07:16

One of most frustrating things that ever happened to me is connected to this question: who is virtue nr. IV, Prudence, in the tarot?

I dreamed the solution at night. It was perfect. I was SO excited. It all worked out beautifully.

You know the rest of the story.

I woke up and all I knew was that I once knew the solution (or thought at least I did).

GONE.

The iconography of Prudence is absent in the tarot, but thank you for the beautiful Minchiate scans... another deck on my list.

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Allegories of virtues are usually female... most allegories... well, in the Seasons, Winter is often male.... so the Hermit might be in the run. The snake is there. But the two faces, the mirror? Has the mirror turned into the lake on the Star card? Does the World hide two faces? (no, the World can't be prudent, she's what happens after prudence has done her job).

There are many theories on the Internet. Where is Prudence? Well, and where is the elementary card for Earth? We don't have a fourth mother letter so you can say we don't need it, World is Earth and Saturn together (and thinking about Bina who is associated with maternal force and Saturn, it might work - even better if we see Rhea as hidden figure who connects Saturn and Earth - but this is strictly my own mad idea not based on any written stuff... a brainwave I had while dealing with my tarot calendar and thought how to bring all the different associations together).

But if World can be Saturn and Earth, maybe she can also be World and Prudence together?

(I think I need a sub-collection of decks that include Prudence! Is she in the Mantegna and Sola Busca? I'll go and check!)

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_R_
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Re: The virtues

Post by _R_ » 09 May 2018, 02:37

Nemia wrote:
29 Sep 2017, 07:16
The iconography of Prudence is absent in the tarot
Perhaps not so strictly true. It may well be there, merely hidden.

(Since I'm not sure how to embed images correctly I won't attempt to do so here, but here's a link)

http://www.sandrine-tarots.fr/les-4-vertus-cardinales

Scroll down to the entry on Prudence, and more specifically, the images of the 4 Cardinal Virtues at the corners of the tomb of Francis II in the cathedral of Nantes. FWIW, none of the other statues are similarly "two-faced".

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Nemia
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Re: The virtues

Post by Nemia » 18 May 2018, 16:39

Oh, that's interesting. So where could Prudence hide her second face?

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Flaxen
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The virtues

Post by Flaxen » 21 May 2018, 15:49

https://artmirrorsart.wordpress.com/201 ... oes-north/

This blog has some great information on Prudence and her depictions.

She is a fascinating Virtue and I can see how the Hermit could be her ‘hidden’ face. I’ve started to lean more towards seeing the Tarot itself as Prudence. When we consult the cards, we are using them to examine our life and make wise (prudent) decisions.

Alternatively, as the younger face of Prudence is a woman looking to the future, perhaps we are Prudence when we contemplate the tarot. Tarot is the mirror we gaze in.

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_R_
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Re: The virtues

Post by _R_ » 25 May 2018, 08:43

Flaxen wrote:
21 May 2018, 15:49
https://artmirrorsart.wordpress.com/201 ... oes-north/

This blog has some great information on Prudence and her depictions.

She is a fascinating Virtue and I can see how the Hermit could be her ‘hidden’ face. I’ve started to lean more towards seeing the Tarot itself as Prudence. When we consult the cards, we are using them to examine our life and make wise (prudent) decisions.

Alternatively, as the younger face of Prudence is a woman looking to the future, perhaps we are Prudence when we contemplate the tarot. Tarot is the mirror we gaze in.
Thanks for that link, that's a well laid-out page. Here's another, with close-ups of the tomb: http://hermetism.free.fr/nantes-prudence.htm

It may well be the case that in the Tarot imagery, the Senex has gradually replaced - or indeed subsumed - the Puella entirely.

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Re: The virtues

Post by Nemia » 25 May 2018, 16:02

In allegories, the puella is much more popular than the senex. Usually only huge rivers and the winter are represented by old men. For nearly everything else, young women are used.

It would be easier to accept that hypothesis if there was another instance of such replacement. Yes, the Hermit's snake might be a hint. But it's highly unusual to replace a female figure by a male. In representations of multi-headed figures, they're always from one gender - the tripartite Hekate, the allegory of time by Titian...

I'd love to see the Hermit as Prudence and find the double-faced concept intriguing, a bit like Epimetheus/Prometheus or the god Ianus - and it also explains the importance of the mirror in Prudence iconography... I'll have to think about this some more.

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