Andrea Vitali's Historical Essays on the Tarot

Ganellini seu Gallerini

The game of Minchiate in Genoa, Rome and Palermo (XVII - XVIII)


Translation from the Italian by Michael S. Howard, Yuly 2013

Bonifacio Vannozzi - Anton Giulio Brignole-Sale - Reginaldo Sgambati - Giovan Bernardo Veneroso - Nicholas Gervase


This article will complete what was described in Tarot in Literature III on the game of Minchiate, the Tuscan Tarot investigated here in its variant in Liguria and Sicily, Ganellini or Gallerini, the name given to the card of the Magician (1). Although most of the information about the name of the game in Liguria argues for the term Gallerini (2), the documents listed below of the XVIIth century identify it as ganellini, the same as we found in a Sicilian document.


Bonifacio Vannozzi


Monsignor Bonifatio Vannozzi (1540-1621), was a man of letters and Pistoia papal prothonotary, a charge that exalted him beyond measure. Two examples will be exhaustive in this regard: "Tell Giano Nicio Eritreo in praise of Bonifacio Vannozzi of Pistoia (one of the most distinguished Secretaries of the Roman court, having exercised this qualification for thirty years in the courts of' princes, legates and Cardinal nephews of the Pontiffs), who when Cardinal Niccolò Sfondrati assumed in 1590 the papacy under the name of Gregory XIV, went to serve Baron Sfondrati, and then Cardinal Paolo Emilio his son, called the Cardinal of St. Cecilia, nephew of the Pope. Vannozzi, with over a thousand crowns a year in ecclesiastical benefices, placed himself in the list of Cardinals to be announced, which he dictated, drawn up  with the most rigorous law of an inviolable secret. The Cardinal nephew, however, curious to know the names of those being promoted, with astute and cunning ways, obtained the news from his mouth,  and, having disclosed it to the Pope,  obliged the deprecated and careless Vannozzi to remove with his own pen his name from that list" (3).


In the Teatro di Segreteria [Theatre of the Secretariat], the title given later to his Lettere Miscellanee [Miscellaneous Letters] (4) dedicated to the "Roman Court Arch-Court of the World", Vannozzi prepare a document summary of "every imaginable occurrence" (Dedication to verse. III), in which he flaunts a definite exhibitionist attitude, of a prothonotary who was allowing himself to moralize and discuss endlessly on any matter.


From Lothar Teikemeier we are informed that our Monsignor refers to Ganellini in the work Della Suppellettile de gli Avvertimenti Politici, Morali, et Christiani [On the Furnishings of Warnings Political, Moral, and Christian] (5), where he condemns the abuse of playing cards, including Tarot, and the blasphemy perpetrated with them in representing the Pope, the Last Judgment, the three theological virtues, and especially a monkey dressed as a monk, preaching from a pulpit (6):

"7051. I cannot let likewise leave off criticizing the abuse, & the scandal, that however persists of those accursed cards to play Tarot, & ganellini, where in one of these cards is the figure of the Pope, with the crown on his head, with the keys in his hands of , and glues turnkey, in the act of giving benediction: this scandalous figure in that place, pleases and is to the taste of the heretics, done to make fun of the Pope painting him in various way and in the most indecent fashions..In the same cards there is the Angel, who plays the trumpet of the last judgment, that too is a most indecent thing, & in the taste of those who joke about Purgatory. There are likewise the Magi guided by the star, & there are the figures of Faith, Hope, and Charity: Is it possible that this abuse is put together among Catholics? If these things were done among Lutherans what would we say? In the game where blasphemy is said, and a thousand curse words, also in the same cards, they use figures so sacred? I protest with whoever has need, & I apologize that it exists and is not remedied. It slipped my mind, that in the deck of so-called playing cards is similarly depicted a Bertuccia [Barbary ape] dressed as a monk, put in the pulpit in the act of preaching: O my God, what things are these? & Even Princes use them as a pastime? Ò great sacrilege!" (7).


Anton Giulio Brignole-Sale


Anton Giulio Brignole-Sale (1605 - 1665), a priest in 1649 and from 1652 a Jesuit, was a famous scholar, senator and ambassador of the Republic of Genoa in 1634 to Philip IV of Spain. Among his works, characterized by fervent depictions of places, scenes and characters, we mention in particular Le instabilità dell'ingegno [The Instability of intellect] (1635), the Tacito abburattato [Tacitus sifted] (1643), Il satirico innocente [The satirical Innocent] (1648) apart from the works of devotional literature Panegirici sacri [Sacred panegyrics] (1652), La colonna per l'anime del Purgatorio [The column for the souls in Purgatory] (1635),, Maria Maddalena peccatrice e convertita [Mary Magdalene sinner and convert] and Il santissimo rosario meditato [The most holy rosary meditation], both of 1636. Three comedies, probably performed at the Academy of the Benumbed, of which Brignole was elected Prince in 1636: : Il geloso non geloso [The jealous not jealous], Li comici schiavi [The comic slaves], and Gli due anelli simili [The two similar rings], all characterized by the usual events of intrigue, disguises and recognitions in the classical tradition with the help of some comic moments from commedia dell'arte.


The game of Ganellini is mentioned in Brignole’s The instability of intellect, Tacitus sifted, and The Satirical Innocent.


The plot of The instability of intellects (8) is based on a usual situation in the repertory: four ladies and as many Genoese knights, all belonging to the Accademia degli Addormentati [Academy of the Benumbed], "close... in kinship, similar in years, tied down by choice, "to escape the plague that threatens Genoa take refuge in a villa of the countryside, where they remain for eight days hobnobbing in debates. Besides these, the work is split up by songs, poems, stories and prayers.

In a passage of the seventh day (9) we find a reference to the game of Ganellini, where talk of the prerogatives of war, in satirical form, describes how even before hypothetical victories, the Popes and Kings of Europe were "managed" together with the same characters featured in the cards of Ganellini, making it clear that such speeches were taking place around a table for playing games.


Seventh Day


"But tell me, please, what time was more suitable for prognosticating, than that of war? Directed with circles not of compasses, but of meetings of the figures of the Monarchies, or of the game boards of the public loggias, what a great reputation they make, the most loyal enshrined in chests, sharing the take from battles not yet made, assigning dominions not yet taken, managing popes and kings of Europe confused with those of Ganellini; making their days ones of sitting; Private counsels censure yawning; on the tables are intimated conquests of the plazas while giving also the assault on the plates, the sinking of fleets while breaking the glasses."


The Tacitus sifted, which collects Brignole’s political and moral speeches at the meetings held by the academy in the winter of 1635and the following spring, is configured as a work of reform against the sophisticated chicanery and fragile cleverness of Baroque Mannerism. By focusing on the need of psychological investigatione on which to base any morality, Brignole rejects the authority of the Ancients including in particular the line against Tacitus that was headed by the Prolusiones of Famiano Road. But far from proposing a true renewal, "there remains  here as part of a moral problematic the most worn formalism of the most banal casuistry of Jesuit imprint, and in Tacitus, in fact, what is desired above all is to blame, according to the teaching of the Jesuit Road, the authori8ty of an ethic not supported by the Christian faith" (10).


In a satirical passage of Sermon X focusing on womanly "virtue", we find reference to the game of Ganellini:


"That Matron, who not to trust others, keeps in iron chests, & with a key to the same, her pearls, bracelets, sweets, perfumes and all the other nonsense of womanly vanity, and commits the custody and shame of three or four daughters, already mature in venal servitude, while she was out of the house until midnight, looser than Orazio on his Harp, having her hands on ganellini, those hands that in her house are for managing the spindle, the spinning wheel, or the needle, everything [that gives the hands] gout " (11).


Having found in a bookstore an anonymous manuscript containing Greek Epigrams on subjects "profitable to human customs" (12), Brignole decided to translate it into the Tuscan language under the title The Satirical Innocent.


As in Tacitus sifted, in this work the author's attitude towards the female sex is expressed in satirical form, denouncing with the intolerance of a true Jesuit. Talking about it (Delle Dame gli humori [on the moods of Ladies]), Brignole complains that Garzoni did not include a specific discussion on women in his work Il Teatro de’ Cervelli [The Theater of Brains] (see our analysis), understanding, however, the impossibility of such inclusion, given that the entire work from the printer would then be just the index, considering the enormity of things that would have to be written about it (13).


"Now yes, to me nothing is stranger: if one wants to know the moods of ladies, he will not have time to know the cares of the Principality. Oh, if only in the theater of brains by Garzoni, the feminine also had a place! Would it not be so big, that the Theater of human life concerning it would hardly seem its index?” Ladies that appear untiring with their hands clasped in front of images of saints, in the same way are seen holding ganellini around their hands at the game tables. "In regard to their customs, here is sweet Beauty combined with the ferocity of a Hippolyta or a Camilla, the marital disaffection of a Clytemnestra mixed with the subtleties of a Portia or an Alceste, the avarice of a procuress or prostitute with the lavishness of the son of an adulterous family: At the same time the lover of confessionals and the spectator at theaters, immobile in Church at the exaggerations of the preachers and most mobile indeed during the festivals of minstrels’ violins and fifes, with tireless hands she reaches forward to images of saints and angels in Oratories, with tireless hands she holds loosely around ganellini in rooms where playing and muttering are" (14).


Reginaldo Sgambati


Reginaldo Sgambati, a Neapolitan, was a monk of the Order of Preachers [Dominicans], poet and master of sacred theology. Of his life little is known, except that in the Academy, Ricovrato was the author of two comedies, Lisaura pellegrina [Lisaura pilgrim] and a Zmgara [Gypsy], both signed with the name of Geliandro, an anagram of Reginaldo.


In La Zingara, Comedia del Sig. D. Geliandro Sgambati, [The Gypsy, Comedy of Sig. D. Geliandro Sgambati], printed in Genoa in 1664 (15), what is of interest to us is in the Prologue, structured in the form of a dialogue between the Prologue itself, which will also be the Gypsy (“Am I here to be the Prologue? Or to be the Gypsy? The one and the other; that one first, this one inside the comedy”), and the "most beautiful and nicest Lady" (in the audience), who asks the Prologue for recommendations and teachings, so as to be able to behave like a true gypsy. The result is a somewhat sarcastic and satirical entertainment, where Ladies suffer a shameless mockery, despite a heartfelt plea for help from the Prologue. One example, among others, is the passage in which the game of ganellini is shown, where womanly wiles, appreciated by Prologue as "most praiseworthy", consist of making believe to their mothers-in-law that they are not looking at the men playing cards with them, but looking at the males exclusively in the form of the pages depicted in ganellini: "but if used to make believe to the Sisters- and Mothers-in-law that when you are seated intently  at the Ganellini Table, you do not raise your gaze from the painted pages [or knaves], who to the real pages [or knaves] you have in your hands , who are around you, ready also to come between your hands, these are praiseworthy wiles".




"You Ladies who teach me perfectly the Gypsy craft, will you not have to be, as you are, so difficult in teaching how to predict  good fortune, as well as  [in the manner of] giving it? What insolence! Go away! Could we be masters of a trade so full of wiles, we who are as innocent as doves? Oh?  if you were as loving as doves, as well as not having their simplicity, are we blessed? Is it true, Signore Mothers-in-law, that these young people have no wiles? Say it, you. But do not blush, most beautiful ones, it is not at all bad to have wiles: they are the soul of the whole world, and what is bad is to use wiles badly: it is like money, gold is good in itself, and bad only by the fault of who spends it; if you use wiles to show to one who is so careless as to be trusting in love, so as to deserve a triumphal crown as reward of his untiring Idolatry, and then changing it almost immediately into a halter of despair, such wiles are detestable, but if used to make the  Mothers-in-law believe that when you are seated  intently at the Ganellini Table, but you do not raise your gaze from the painted Pages [fante], to the real Pages you have in your hands, whom you have around you, ready also to come between your hands, these are praiseworthy wiles. Now to turn back to my need, I  believe that you can acquaint me with the craft of the Gypsy, simply because seeing you weep for your servants [i.e. men] at the time, that you have killed them, that I think you  know so well the art of the Crocodile, that I firmly believe you are experienced in Egypt, home of the gypsies. So tell me by your faith in what ways I should in exercising this art vary with the variety of people who want [to engage] me in divination? Etc" (16).


To conclude, abandoning the purely literary, we will deal with two texts in which the game of ganellini appears as an object of possible taxation and so a permitted entertainment in Palermo of the middle of the eighteenth century.


Giovan Bernardo Veneroso


In the writing of naval inspiration Genio Ligure Risvegliato, Discorso di Gio. Bernardo Veneroso, Nobile Genovese [Engineers of Liguria Awakened, Speeches by Gio. Bernardo Veneroso, Genovese Noble] (17), ganellini is proposed as the object of taxation, along with an endless list of other things, to recover the funds necessary for privately arming the galleys deemed necessary in order to oppose by all means and firmness, the violence of the European powers. In fact, both Spain (ally of Genoa) and France had chosen the Ligurian Sea as one of their favorite fields of contention, triggering a spiral of retaliation of which the Genoese were the main victims. In Genoa, the Academy of the Numbed. to which Veneroso belonged, was the fact that more than any other sought to publicize the need for this intervention.

    Genio Ligure                                             

                            Frontispiece of the work Genio Ligure Risvegliato [Engineers of Liguria Awakened]

                                                       made by C. Blomaert to the design of Domenico Fiasella


Note 125 of the work, addressed, of course, to "The Lord my Duke and the Signori Most Excellent Governors and Procurators of the Most Serene Republic of Genoa", is "How much do you spend to maintain 20 galleys and such things that can extract money" and documenting the costs involved in arming such ships: "The money for the expense of the armada of 20 galleys for three months necessities, beyond the ordinary expenses [assignatione] for six galleys, which the Most Serene Republic always keeps of bound [ligata] people, four hundred twenty thousand pounds, made ten thousand lire a month for each one, which could be obtained by voluntary contributions or by will of the Magistrates; or from tolls or taxes" (18). Among the many tax proposals is also the following: "One could in addition impose on these things, serving to restrain the vices of lust, throat, and play, as on Cuochi [Restaurants], Tavernari [Taverns], Bettolanti [gaming houses], and Camere locande [gambling inns] and on cards and ganellini " (19).


Nicola Gervaso


We know this author thanks only to the very brief description given of him in the work Siculæ sanctiones (1755), a legislative treatise of the Government of Sicily, edited by the same. We know, therefore, that he was Judge of the Consistory of the Holy Royal Conscience and Counselor of the King (Jam olim Trib Concistorii Sacrae Regiae Conscentiae Judicem, Regium Consiliarium).


The work (20), dedicated to "Joanni Marchioni Foliano, Siciliae Proregi Optimo", is of some importance for knowing games that were allowed (including that of ganellini) and prohibited in XVIIIth century Sicily. Their description appears in the work in "Supplementum ad Tractatum de rebus. Criminalibus in Tomo V".


Before introducing the games, it is considered opportune to know the places where they were completely banned. It was strictly forbidden, as well as in games "clearly prohibited", to play even in those permitted: "in no open spaces [as on the upper floors, under colonnades], nor plazas of this Capital, or any other City and Land of this Kingdom, or yet the open space of Castles, soldiers’ Quarters, Guardhouses, Docks, Galleys, Ships, Garrisons, brothels [casini], taverns, in any house where wine is sold, in shops, in barracks, or other Meeting place whatever". “To four sections of rope and at least five years of galley" were condemned those who were caught playing "in” courtyards and staircases of this Royal Palace, and of Judges, Magistrates, Courts, of the City and Lands of this Kingdom". In practice it was possible to play only in private homes!


This is the description on allowed games and the penalties imposed on those who did not respect the forbidden places:


"Gatherings are permitted, in virtue of the present custom, for all lawful games, that benefit an honest alleviation of the body and spirit, to make it right and ready to labor, and 'which are done with loyalty, moderation, and honesty, which are precisely the games of Taroccbi, Tresetti mano [for three hands?], and, in any manner of play, of Calabresella, and for four are named Reversino, Picbetto, Ganellini, Scarcinate, Gabella, the Stopo, as long as it does not contain bidding or betting, but in the casual way [la matta] as is practiced today, of Scaccbi, Matrelia, Oca [Goose], and others, such as the ones that exercise the body, i.e. Trucco, Bigliardi [Billiards], Palle [Balls], Boccie [Bowls], Palloni [Balls], which, however, remain with those penalties incurred in the above, for those who will practice them, in .... the prohibited places, with the above named penalties, and any other, as regards the abuse of' games, commands the King our Lord, who will apply the third part to the benefit of the complainant, in accordance with the above, with which it is established, and the other two third parts going to the benefit of the Alleviation of the poor in this capital" (21).


The prohibited games were "those calling for bidding and betting, as there would be in the games of Bassetta, Quanto inviti [How much bid], Primera, Goffo [Clumsy], Trenta [Thirty] and Quaranta [Forty], Cartetta, Faraone [Pharaoh], Bancofallito [Failedbank], Zicchinetto, Biribisso, Paris and Pinta, Posadieci, Sette [Seven] and Ocho [Eight], Scansa quidici [Dodge fifteen], Caccio [catch], Cavignola, Zachanette, Trentuno [Thirty-one], Cartetta, La fior [The flowers], and all other games of bidding and betting with cards, dice, farinole, or others of wood, or other instruments, which can have bidding or betting, etc " (22).




1 - See in this respect our essay Treatise on the Game of Minchiate.

2 - Paolo Minucci, who used the pseudonym Puccio Lamone, wrote a commentary focusing on the rules of the game of minchiate, in the work Il Malmantile Racquistato (1676) by Lorenzo Lippi, On this subject he writes: “Tanto mi pare che basti per facilitare l’intelligenza delle presenti ottave a chi non fusse pratico dl giuoco delle Minchiate, che usiamo noi toscani, che è assai differente da quello, che con le medesime carte usano quelli della Liguria, che lo dicono Gallerini; perché Minchiate in quei paesi è parola oscena” ("So I think that is enough for the better understanding of these octaves to those who are not practiced in the game of Minchiate, which we  Tuscans play, which is very different from that with the same cards played in Liguria, who say Gallerini, because Minchiate in those lands is an obscene word" (See our article about it, Il Malmantile Racquistato)

3 - Gaetano Moroni, Dizionario di Erudizione Storico-Ecclesiastica. Da San Pietro fino ai nostri giorni, Vol. IX, Venezia [Dictionary of historical and ecclesiastical scholarship. From St Peter to the present day, Vol IX, Venice], From Tipografia Emiliana, 1741, p. 307. Moroni, from Rome, was the first chamber assistant of His Holiness Pope Gregory XVI.

4 - Delle lettere miscellanee [From the miscellaneous letters], Venice, Ciotti, 1606. Volumes II and III were respectively published in Rome in 1608 and in Bologna in 1617.

5 - Bonifatio Vannozzi, Della Suppellettile degli Avvertimenti Politici, Morali, et Christiani, [On the furnishings of warnings Political, Moral, and Christian], Volume Three, Bologna, appresso gli Heredi di Giovanni Rossi, 1613. We are grateful to Lothar Teikemeier for informing us of the existence of this text.

6 - Which Triumph or numeral card it is, is unknown. While maintaining the specific names of each card, the iconography could vary.

7 - Bonifatio Vannozzi, Della Suppellettile (On Furnishings], op. cit., pp. 627-628.

8 - The work was printed in Bologna in the city and not that of the author, because of certain assessments of "instability" leveled against the Holy Office of Genoa. Evidently in Bologna, despite being governed by an ecclesiastical temporal power, it was easier to get the licenza de'superiori, that is, for printing. But it is certain that even the slightest form of rebellion against the dominant morality in Genoese life was foreign to the intention of the author.

9 - Our edition of reference: Anton Giulio Brignole-Sale, Le Instabilità dell’Ingegno, divise in otto giornate. In questa ultima Impressione variate e corrette[The Instability of Genius, divided into eight days. In this last changed and corrected impression], Venezia, presso gli Heredi del Sarzina, 1641. Pp. 294-295.

10 - Gaspare De Caro, Voce Brignole Sale, Anton Giulio in “Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani” ["Biographical Dictionary of Italians"], Volume 14, 1972.

11 - Our edition of reference: Antongiulio Brignole Sale, Tacito abburattato. Discorsi politici e morali [Antongiulio Brignole Sale, Tacitus sifted. Moral and political disicourses], Napoli, Per Gio. Francesco Paci, 1671, p. 254.

12 - This expression is found, together with the report of the discovery of the Epigrams, in the Lettore at the beginning of our edition of reference: Il Satirico Innocente, Epigrammi trasportati dal Greco all’Italiano e commentati dal Marchese Antongiulio Brigliole Sale [The Satirical Innocent, Epigrams transported from the Greek to Italian and commented on by the Marquis Antongiulio Brigliole Sale], Fifth Impression, Venezia, 1672.

13 - Ibid, p. 406.

14 - Ibid, pp. 411-412.

15 - D. Geliandro Sgambati, La Zingara [The Gypsy], Genova per Pietro Giovanni Calenzani, 1664.

16 - Ibid, pp. 7, 8, 9.

17 - Gio. Bernardo Veneroso, Genio Ligure Risvegliato [Engineers of Liguria Awakened], Genova, Gio Domenico Peri, 1650.

18 - Ibid, p. 81.

19 - Ibid, p. 83.

20 - Nicolaum Gervasium, Siculæ sanctiones, Tome of Sextus, Panormi (Palermo), 1755.

21 - Ibid, p. 485.

22 - Ibid, pp.482-483.