Andrea Vitali's Historical Essays on the Tarot

El Bagatella or the symbol of sin

On the reason for the presence of the Bagatto as the first card of the Triumphs


Andrea Vitali, September 2012


Translation by Michael S. Howard, June 2023



“On appelle la bagatelle le péché qui degrade plus la nature humaine, qui l'énerve, qui l'aveugle, qui la depouillant de sa noblesse et d'une fierté legitime, l'asservit aux plus humiliantes sensations. C'est bien avec raison que le Sage nous avertit, que l'homme insensé commet le crime, par manière de badinage: Quasi per risum stultus operatur scelus. Prov. X. 23.”


                                                                                               Abbé de Feller


As we have pointed out in our iconological essay The Bagatto (The Magician), the image on this card presents a prestidigitator [the English from presti, quick, and digit, finger; the Italian prestigiatore from presti, quick, and giatore, player – trans.] intent on his work. Bagatto is a word derived from bagatella, a term which "appears in the vernacular Italian written in the late 15th century, spreading during the 16th in an area stretching from Northern Italy to the Campania of Masuccio of Salerno, anchored mainly in the north-central area.” 1 In fact, the first document on the tarot that shows this term is the manuscript Sermo perutilis de ludo by an anonymous monk, dating to the late 15th-early 16th century (see here our essay on this Sermo). In documents on the tarot of the 16th century we see it called Bagatella, the Bagattella, Bagatello, the Bagatino, the Gabbattèlla, Bagato. 2 Bagato, transformed into Bagatto, later becomes the term most used.


Although the etymology of Bagatella is still under investigation, the most important etymological dictionaries and other sources 3 derive it from the Low Latin Baga, burden, stuff, baggage, or, in another hypothesis, from Bagattino or Bagatino, a kind of small Venetian coin of minimum value minted in 1371, from the Latin Bàca, berry, and, figuratively, a small round object “that is literally of little value for anyone to possess; stuff of nothing.” 4


Vincenzo Coronelli and Gilles Ménage (see note 3) identify Bagatella with the Latin noun Nugae (Res levis pretii ac momenti, that is, something of little value and consideration).  It is explained by the Dizionario Latino Georges-Calonghi-Badellino as “Bazzecole, frottole, ciance, futilità,” i.e., trifles, nonsense, empty words, futility, and in modified form, person of nothing, without a brain, light, frivolous.


There is also the word Bagattare, found in the Glossarium manuale ad scriptores mediae et infimae latinitatis: “nugari, tricari”- to talk nonsense, to trick 5 (The latter term is from trĭcæ = nonsense, foolishness.)


There is also, in medieval Latin, Bagattandi, i.e., “of bagattare” (genitive case). It appears, along with Bagatella, in a passage from Paolo Scordilla (1398) cited by Muratori as translated by his nephew:


“Paolo Scordilla, che circa l’Anno 1398, scrisse le Vite degli Arcivescovi di Ravenna Part. I del Tomo II, Rer. Ital. p. 214 così scrive: Cuius zizaniae siminator fuit Servideus, primo Cantor huius Ecclesiae, & c. cognomine vocatus el Bagatella, propter ejus cavillationes umbratiles & pueriles, vel quod illam artem noverit Bagattandi.”6

(Paolo Scordilla, who around the year 1398 wrote the Lives of the Archbishops of Ravenna, Part I of Volume II, Rer. Ital., p. 214, wrote thus: Of which was the sower of discord Servideus, first chorister of this Church, called by the nickname el Bagatella because of his touchy and childish quibbles, or because he knew well that art of Bagattandi.”)


In what precedes this passage, Muratori mentions the Arabic word Bakatta, a term which in Italian sounds like Bagattare, meaning “to hasten in speech or walking,” which the Modenese call Abbagattare and the Florentines Acciabattare  (do things quickly and badly, botch). With only one T, Muratori continues, the Arab world has Bagata, which means “to mix up, disorganize,” probably a term from which, he states, the Western world took Bagatelle, meaning trifles or the games of acrobats or sleight of hand artists.


Here is Muratori's original text, followed by a translation of the Italian version published posthumously by his nephew after the author's death:       


“Nulla inter Linguas, olim Italis notas, offert mihi verbum, quod voci, de qua agimus, sono literarum propius sit, quàm Arabica. Ullis quippe est Bakatta, quod Italice redditum evadit Bacattare, Bagattare. Ab iis accepisse Mutinenses videntur hoc verbum, quum ajunt Bagattare & Abbagattare rem aliquam, idest eam sine studio, ас inepte ргаe festinatione conficere: pro quo Acciabattare Florentini dicunt. Dicimus etiam Bagatta-mestiere. Significat autem Arabicum Bakatta, Gollio teste, Festinare in sermone, vel in incessu, Corripere, Monere verbis, Rem disgregare, eamdemque colligere. Est Arabum Populo & alterum simile verbum, unico T. scriptum, idest Bagata, significans Miscere, Confunderenegotium, cibumsermonem suum. Fieri potuit, ut olim Itali, qui ex Arabum gente dominante in Sicilia Calabria, & ob mercaturam ac literarum studia, apud eos familiari, tot alias voces accepere. Bagattare quoque didicerint, eoque uterentur ad significandam Joculatorum, Agyrtarum, & Scurrarum artem, qui fabulis, ludis, ac rebus puerilibus, & nullius pretii, spectatores detinebant. Illos propterea Bagattare dixerint, eorumque ludos Bagattellas, diminutivonomine efformato e Bagattare, nuncupare cœperint.” 7


(“None of the languages once known to the Italians presents me with a word which in sound [of the letters] is closer to the term we are dealing with than the Arabic language. In fact, they have Bakatta, which translated into Italian becomes Bacattare, Bagattare. It seems that the people of Modena have taken this word from them, when they say to Bagattare and Abbagattare something, that is, to carry it out in haste without commitment and with foolishness: hence the Florentines say Acciabattare. We also say Bagatta – trade [i.e., craft – trans.]. On the other hand, the Arabic Bakatta, witnessed by Gollio, means to hurry in speaking or walking, to hasten, to admonish verbally, to disrupt a situation, to impede in some way. The Arabs have another similar verb, that is. Bagata, written with a single T. meaning To mix, To confuse - one's business, food, speech. It could be that the Italians from the Arab people, i.e. from the Saracens who once dominated Sicily and Calabria and did great trade with our various countries, [having] learned many other words from this familiarity [understanding a comma where Muratori has a period – trans.], will have learned and used Bagattare to mean the art of the jugglers [in an archaic sense of that word in English – trans.], charlatans, and clowns who entertained spectators with tales, games, and childish actions of no value. For this reason they called them Bagattare, their games Bagatellas, in the form of a diminutive name, and began to say Bagattare.”)


Translation edited by Muratori’s nephew, from the 33rd Dissertation:


"If you ask me the origin of this item, I answer that I have found nothing for sure, and I can only exhibit a conjecture. The Arabic language has Bakatta, which adjusted to our language becomes Bagattare. It means, as evidenced by Gollio, Festinare in sermone, vel in incessu (To hasten in speech or walking). The Modenese say Abbagattare, which the Florentines call Acciabattare. The Arabs have another similar verb, that is, Bagata, with a single T, signifying Miscere, Confundere negotium, cibum, sermonem suum.Corripere, Monere verbis, Rem disgregare, eamdemque colligere (To mix, to confuse business, food, one’s speech. To rebuke, to warn with words, to disintegrate a thing, and to collect the same). It is not improbable that the Italians acquired Bagattare from the Arab people, or the Saracens, who at one time dominated in Sicily and Calabria, from the great traffic of their country through ours, as the Italians have acquired so many other words, and [that] they would call Bagatelle things of nothing, and cunning, and the games of the Cantambanche [Mountebanks; literally, those mounted on platforms].” 8


Of further interest, in our opinion, are the terms Abbagattato and Bagattato, which gave rise in the Italian language to the expression “I was abbagattato or bagattato,” meaning that one has been cheated or suffered an accident of various kinds.Bagattare also means ruining something or someone. 9 It should also be emphasized that Acciabattare, the word reported by Muratori, in current language Ciabattare, i.e. shuffling about in slippers, is related to Ciabattino, cobbler, one who repairs broken shoes and more rarely a manufacturer of slippers, a term which in a figurative sense means “One who does a job badly for lack of commitment or ability,” 10 therefore a bagatello. It is no coincidence that in some tarot cards, the Bagato (Magician) is identified as a shoemaker, or craftsman generally, 11 to indicate a character held in little consideration.


The following are brief passages taken from seventeenth-century works in which the term Acciabattato is used:


“Onde sarebbe stata temerarietà l'esporre agli occhi acutissimi dell'invidia un lavoro acciabattatato.” 12

(Wherefore it would have been rash to expose an acciabattato work to the sharpest eyes of envy.)


“Queste parole, & attioni de’ Deputati davano chiaramente à divedere, che non erano per affaticarsi in troppo lungo uficio per impetrare a’ Francesi la chiesta sodisfatione anzi spasimassero di voglia di compiere il lavoro acciabattato con gli Spagnoli per parlare poscia à favore de’ proprij Collegati, più per forma, che per altro.” 13

(These words and actions of the Deputies clearly gave the impression that they were not for tiring themselves in office too long to obtain the requested satisfaction from the French; on the contrary, they were dying of desire to carry out the acciabattato work with the Spaniards so as to speak afterwards in favor of their own Associates, more for form than anything else.)


“Eccolo [il Cristo], accusato à varij tribunali, querelato da gente bugiarda, infamato come reo, con un processo tumultuario, pieno di nullità, senza servare ordine alcuno di ragione, acciabattato all’infretta, frà le tenebre della notte, senza voler aspettare la luce del giorno. Malladetta Sinagoga di malignanti!  Che forma di giudicio precipitato è codesta!” 14

(Here he is [Christ], accused in various tribunals, sued by lying people, infamous as a criminal, with a tumultuous trial, full of nullity, without serving any order of reason, hastily acciabattato, in the darkness of the night without wanting to wait for the light of day. Accursed Synagogue of malignants! What kind of hasty judgment is this!)


Returning to the term baca, in support of an etymological derivation of bagatella from this word, the term baccattella also existed, as found for example in the work Dialogo della Signora Tullia D’Aragona della Infinita di Amore (Dialog of Signora Tullia D'Aragona on the Infinity of Love). In a three-way dialogue, a man addresses the lady of the title thusly: “Diro che voi sappiate far con le parole quello, che fanno i giucolatori di baccattelle colle mani” (I say that you know how to do with words what players of baccattelle do with their hands). 15  


Another example is testified by the poem "Guarda ben ti dich' io, guarda ben, guarda” (Look well, I tell you, look well, look), by Antonio di Matteo di Meglio (Florence, 1384-1448), author of prose and poems as well as hired cantor rerum moralium of the Florentine Signoria:


“Giuoco è da baccatelle / l’andar pure alle belle (1) – con chi sguizza.” 16


(1) l'andar pur alle belle = to assume an available and cordial attitude.


(It’s a game of baccatelle / to assume an available and cordial attitude – with those who wiggle.)


The lines point out that pleasing those who weren't interested in establishing a real bond was a game of no value, in the sense of being useless if not downright harmful. The teaching of the entire poem places the emphasis on not trusting unreliable people, as some following lines following read: “Del ben far non pentire, / ma quarti ma quârti [guardati] dal servire - ad uomo ingrate” (Do not repent of the good that you do, but beware of serving an ungrateful man). Furthermore, from other verses we learn that it is a waste of time to go out with women and a folly to get involved in love affairs:  “È mal bestiame, / il perdere tempo in dame, / e stare in varie trame – è atto folle (It is bad beastliness, / to waste time on ladies, / and to be in various intrigues – it is a mad act). 17


From these examples, since bagatella seems interchangeable with baccatella, it is difficult to say whether the origin is from the Latin baca, berry (small fruit), or from the diminutive of baga, burden, stuff, or a term derived from the Arab world, as reported by Muratori. Perhaps the first two terms were mixed together, since the magic tricks were done with small objects taken from small bags that hid their secrets from the curious. The examples given reveal different meanings such as their interrelationships: the trifles are the little things that the bagatelliere/bagatella uses for his trifles-deceptions.


The term bagatella with the meaning of a thing of little account had widespread European diffusion: bagatelle in France and England, and bagatela in Spain, Portugal, the Basque country, and Latin America.


The meanings of “toy” and “marionette” were also attributed to the term bagatella, while another word, gherminella, referred to "a sort of sleight of hand performed using a string and a stick, 18 where players bet on a result they believed to be safe but was skillfully controlled by the operator.


We have evidence of bagatella as “toy” from Don Quixote (1615), where one of the character, while claiming to have translated a book from Tuscan to Castilian (i.e., Spanish), evaluates juguettes, i.e. toys, as equal to bagatele, i.e. trifles.


-          “What is the title of the book?” Asked Don Quixote.

-          To which the author replied,

-          “Senõr, the book, in Tuscan, is called Le bagatele.

-          “And what does Le Bagatele correspond to in our Castilian?”

-          “Le bagatele,” said the author, “is as if in Castilian we said ‘the toys.’” 19


For the explicit, non-metaphorical meaning of bagatella and variants as “puppet” or “marionette,” there exists a variety of Italian references. A nineteenth-century Neapolitan dictionary has bavattelle and guarantelle for theatrical performances involving puppets and just the puppets themselves. 20 “It must be considered that in the Middle Ages - and even later - the figures of puppeteer and prestidigitator are identical, also because the puppets, in addition to serving to attract the public, were actually used in games of conjuring and conjuring." 21


We also find ioco de bagatelle in Masuccio Salernitano, before 1476, and baggattielle in Giambattista Basile. In Canton Ticino and Bergamo it is the masculine bagatèll, modified to magatèll in Lombardy and Piedmont. All give, among other meanings, that of “puppet/marionette.” 22


Certain frivolous or lascivious entertainments made with marionettes and puppets were also called bagatelle, as we learn from the accounts of Pietro della Valle, who in letters sent to acquaintances about his travels in the Middle East and Orient describes the many circumstances he attended. In particular, he claims to have seen performances in Constantinople that he calls precisely bagatelle, such as performances done with shadows equal to those seen in the wide area at the Castello in Naples or Piazza Navona in Rome. These were performed by bagatellieri or “giuocolatori” who, due to the objects used and the extravagance of the production, made these shows more obscene than could have been organized at home in brothels on the occasion of Carnival, and even more so during Lent.


Letter 2 from Constantinople:


"However, in times of fasting in these so-called houses of Cahue [places where coffee was roasted or sold – trans.], there are also some giuocolatoriwho detain the assistants with a thousand trinkets; and among others, as I saw the other evening, when I went there, they show, behind an illuminated canvas or paper, various representations of shadows, and figures of phantoms, who move, walk, and do a thousand acts, like those that we still sometimes do in certain apparatuses, but not mute, like ours; but they make them speak in the same way that bagattellieri do in Naples in the wide area of [i.e., in front of – trans.] the Castle, and in Piazza Navona in Rome; that is, the giuocolatore inside speaks for them with different voices in various languages, and he makes various amorous jokes well enough: but the representations are all of very obscene things, and of acts between men and dishonest women, showing such extravagances of gestures and instrumental ingredients, that at Carnival in a brothel would be too lascivious, even more so for Lenten pastimes.” 23 (Text 2)


Among the old Florentine carnival songs, the Canto di Lanzi Maestri di fare Fraccurradi, e Bagattelle (Song of Lanze, Masters of making Fracurradi and Bagatelle 25) is significant in this regard.


“Fracurrade, Bagatelle,

   Giuche Lanzi destremente,

   Ch’ell’ è fuore, e ch’ell’è drente

   Star bel giuoche Germinelle.

Con Bicchiere, e con Ballotte,

   Giuoche destre, accorte, enette

   Volte prime sopre, e sotte,

   Frughe dentre con bacchette:

   Tal che quelle cave, e mette,

   Che feder [sic, for seder] non puo niente,

   Benche queste fuore, e dentre

   Stare un giuoche poi piu belle.” 24


(Fracurrade (1), Bagatelle,

Lanze (2) play skillfully,


   Which [loop] is outside, and which is inside,

    It is a nice game, Germinelle (2).

With Cups and with Balls,

Dexterous, shrewd, clever games

First times above and below,

Poke inside with little sticks:

So that those empty and place,

The one sitting can do nothing,

Although these outside and inside

Remaining a game then more beautiful.)  


(1). “Fracurrade is a certain entertainment for carefree groups, which game is played with certain puppets on the tips of the fingers, and they catch each other, joust, joke, kill one another, take certain castles from one another.” 25


(2): Lanze: short for lanzichenecchi,from the German landchnechten, foot-soldiers. The reference is to the German mercenary foot soldiers employed in Italian armies. Alessandro Parenti paraphrases the first two lines as, “The Germans play skillfully with puppets and bagatelle, which is outside, which is inside, a beautiful game.” The style of the song, he says, imitates these people’s way of speaking Italian.  26a


(3) Germinelle: "The proponent [the swindler] folds the rope . . .and wraps it forming two loops . . . ; the bettor puts the stick (or possibly his finger) into one of the loops and must guess if, by pulling the string, it will remain free or entangled," i.e. inside or outside. 26b The swindler then controls the outcome by whether he unwraps the rope clockwise or counterclockwise.


If initially the verses speak of Fracurrade, that is, entertainments where each finger hosted a particular miniature puppet, the subsequent word Bagatelle speaks of two games of deception:  germinelle (or gherminelle) and that of bussolotti, with small cups (bicchiere) complete with balls (ballote) and wands (bacchette), typical objects of magicians, where the verse “Volte prime sopre, e sotte” (First time above and below) highlights how the prestidigitator shows the cups (bussolotti) initially empty, while the line “Tal che quel cave e mette” (So that those empty and place) refers to the action of removing and inserting the balls under the cups.


Bagatella also appears in the poem “Listen to new madness” (Udite nova pazzia), traditionally thought to have been written by Jacopone da Todi in around 1300, but in fact by someone else later. Alessandro Parenti writes in this regard, “The text is certainly apocryphal, perhaps even fifteenth century, if we trust the rubric that we read in a fifteenth century Palatine codex: ‘canticum actum Padue nono Kalendas Maij anno domini 1415’ (hymn executed at Padua the ninth day before the first of May 1415).” 27a. In a version published in 1617 and often thereafter, the lines read:


“Lassovi la fortuna fella

Travagliar qual bagattella

quanto più si mostra bella

come anguilla squizza via.” 27b


(I leave to you wicked fortune

Who acts as a bagattella

Whenever she seems most beautiful

She slips away like an eel.)


Bagatella here seems to describe fortune as a trickster, an illusionist. But other interpretations could be likely, such as the following:


“Lascio [a voi] la sorte traditrice

agitarsi come una marionetta:

quanto più fa moine [si mostra favorevole],

tanto più sguizza via come un’anguilla.” 28


(I leave [to you] traitorous fate

agitating itself like a marionette:

the more it flatters [shows itself favorable to one],

the more it squirms away like an eel.)


There exist two other versions of the poem, the first of which is found in a manuscript in Verona:


“Lasso ancor fortuna fella

travagliar sua bagatella . . .” 29


(I leave again traitorous fate

to agitate its marionette . . .)


The second is in a handwritten manuscript in Florence:


“Lasso la fortuna bella

travagliar sua baccatella . . .” 30


(I leave beautiful fate

to agitate its marionette . . . )


These last two codices are of much interest, as they imply that the puppet is not Fortuna moving from one place to another, but the one who lets himself be seduced by Fortuna, who rushes everywhere to find her realizing that she escapes his hand as soon as he encounters her. In Andrea Moniglia's seventeenth-century definition of Tarocco as "Balordo, Fantoccio, Malfatto," “Fantoccio” means precisely “Puppet,” but for Moniglia also a person with no will of his own. 31 [Regarding the other two terms, Balordo = of obtuse or slow intelligence, and Malfatto = badly made, therefore suffering from a serious mental or physical defect – trans.]


There is yet another version of the stanza, in an edition of 1514.


“Lassove la fortuna fella

travagliare sua bagatella

quanto piu se monstra bella

come anguila squiza via.” 32


In the translation, we give the alternative readings of the second line:


I leave to you wicked [or traitorous] fortune,

to work its bagatella [trick? trifle? puppet?]:

the more it shows itself favorable to one

the more like an eel it squirms away.


In this case, were it not for the other versions, we might think that bagatella simply meant “trick” or even “trifle.”


The attribution bagatella = marionette, Parenti says, is related to the Provençal bavastel, babastel, bagastel, and the old Catalan bavastell, all meaning “marionette.” Moreover, in many Italian regions, such as Genoa and the northern part of the Marches, terms such as bugatt (puppet, scarecrow) become bugatta (doll). 33 We also have pupazzo, from the Latin púpa, meaning both “doll” and “puppet.” There is then pupatolla, feminine clothing for dolls and puppets.


Regarding the word bavastel, Parenti reports a passage in the Provençal servantese (song in praise) “Fadet juglar,” from the late twelfth or early thirteenth century, which lists the skills required of a giocoliere:


“E paucs pomels

ab dos coltelz

sapchas gitar e retenir;

e chans d’auzels

 e bavastelz

e fai lor castels assaillir.” 34


(And small metal balls

with two knives,

 know how to throw and catch [them];

and [how to imitate] the song of birds

and [how to use] puppets [bavastelz, also = marionettes]

and make them attack their castles.)


The term bavastel is derived from the Old French baastel and variants, meaning the prestidigitator’s equipment as well as tours d’escamotage (sleight of hand) and tromperie (trickery). Baastel then becomes Basteleur and Bâteleur, this last the title of the French tarot card. 35 However, the fact remains that these last two meanings, “toy” and “marionette,” did not enjoy a great diffusion, compared to those we will see later, of trifle, sleight of hand, and fraud.


In literature, the word hardly ever occurs with such a meaning, and when it does, it is, to our knowledge, always in the context of the card itself. Thus Teofilo Folengo, in a sonnet meant to incorporate the titles of the five cards Fortuna, Mondo, Temperantia, Stella, and Bagatella, writes


“Questa Fortuna al Mondo è ‘n Bagattella, / ‘C’hor quinci altrui solleva hor quindi abbassa. / Non è Temperantia in lei, pero fracassa / La Forza di chi nacque in prava Stella.” 36

(This Fortune is to the World a Bagatella, / Who first lifts someone up, then brings him down. / There is no Temperance in her, so she shatters / The Strength of anyone born under a bad Star”.)


Here Fortune is not being called Bagatella as a trick or trifle, but rather as a powerful agent of tricks, bringing people down just when they thought they had achieved success. Bagatella now names the actor rather than the object of the action, the one in Italian normally called the bagattelliere, as defined by the Grande Dizionario of the Crusca, as “Player of bagattelle; sleight of hand artist; salesperson [or barker or swindler]; puppeteer who entertained the public to sell merchandise (Giocatore di bagattelle; prestigiatore; imbonitore; burattinaio che intratteneva il pubblico per vendere la merce). 37


In this context, besides bagatella we also see the grammatically masculine form bagatello, for example in a Florentine strambotto of around 1500, with the same meaning of a person using tricks and illusions to make money at the expense of the crowd.


“Miracomãdo aquel angelo pio, / al mõdo al sole alla luna & lostello

 / alla saetta & a quel diavol rio / la morte el traditore el vecchierello

 / la rota el caro & e giustizia di dio / forteza & temperanza & e amor bello

 / al Papa imperatore & Imperatrice / al bagatello al matto più felice.” 38


(I commend myself to that pious angel, / to the world, the sun, the moon and the stars,

/ to the arrow [lightning] and that cursed devil, / death, the traitor, the poor old man,     

/ the wheel, the chariot, & justice of God, / fortitude & temperance and beautiful love,

/ to the Pope, emperor and empress, / to the bagatello, the madman most happy.)


At the same time, bagatello also meant a little thing of little importance in addition to the prestidigitator’s game, as per our essay to which we refer the reader. 39


In its Italian and foreign diffusion three main areas are distinguishable: the first means “small thing of little value,” the second, “sleight of hand or skill,” and the third, “fraudulent actions, fraud.” We will see below why these three meanings are linked together in the concept of bagatella. We will give two examples concerning the meaning of Bagatella as a thing of little value. (In all of the following, we will leave the term bagatella and its derived words in Italian.)


Vasari (1511-1574), speaking of Giovannantonio, the painter known as "The Sodom of Verzelli," also called Mattaccio, says of him: "But he always had the spirit of foolishness [baie] and worked at his whim, caring for nothing more than dressing pompously, wearing doublets of brocade, cloaks all ornamented with gold cloth, the richest caps, necklaces, and other similar bagatelle and things of buffoons [buffoni] and charlatans [ciarlatani]." 40 (Text 1)


The word bagatella, in English “bagatelle,”also had its Latin equivalents, for those who wrote in that language. Thus Erasmus of Rotterdam on the fair sex: Iisdem fermè de causis hoc hominum genere mulieres gaudere solent impensius, utpote ad voluptatem & nugas natura propensiores. Proinde quicquid cum huiusmodi factitarint, etiam si nonnumquam serium nimis, illae tamen jocum ac lusum interpretantur, ut est ingeniosus, praesertim ad praetexenda commissa sua, sexus ille” (And it's more or less for the same reasons that women, as they are more prone by nature to fun and bagatelles [nugas], usually are so comfortable with this kind of men [i.e., fools]. Therefore any action they are at - although sometimes it is all too serious - women interpret as a game and entertainment, so ingenious is their sex above all in hiding their misdeeds.) 41


Let us move on to Agnolo Firenzuola (1493-1545) for the meaning of Bagatella as “sleight of hand or skill,” citing a passage in the translation, which he adapted, of' the Golden Ass of Apuleius, Book One: "I saw in Siena, in the piazza that is called il Campo, on a horse a player of bagatelle [circulator, in Apuleius’s Latin]swallow for the sake of a few coins a very sharp sword, and plunge into his body a hog spear, with that part downward which has the point." 42 (Text 2)


In the Morgante of Pulci (1432-1484) are two examples of  “fraudulent action, cunning, deceit”: the first when Gano di Maganza "did the sad-sack and the cur as usual, / And let himself fall like a rascal. / See if he can still do the bagatella ... " 43 (Text 3), that is, if, as is usual, he behaves like a coward hiding his cowardice with a cunning fiction, and, still with reference to Gano: "Think, Reader, if the traitor put in order / All his bagatelle and lies, / And his mandrakes (poison) and snakes (envy) and dice-shakers (deceptions) / And showed his dust and bags and tricks / And showed them to all . . ." 44 (Text 4)


We have a similar meaning in the Novellino of Masuccio Salernitano (of Salerno) (c. 1410-1475), Novella XX, where a gentleman of Salerno, madly in love with a widow, was finally punished, he who "never was punished for any of those tricks and bagatelle that he had all employed all his life." 45 (Text 5)


Continuing, so Machiavelli (1469-1527) in Clizia, where Nicomachus, an old man, in love with Clizia, responds to Sophronia (Act II - Scene III): “Nicomachus: You threaten me with your chatter; don’t make me say it. Do you think perhaps that I am blind and I do not know the games (the plots) of these your bagatelle? I indeed knew that mothers cared for their children, but I did not think they wanted to support their children in their dishonest actions.” 46 (Text 6) 


Pietro Aretino  (1492-1556) in a dialogue between two servants Cappa and Rosso in La Cortigiana (The Courtesan), Act One - Scene XX: “Cappa. You are very cheerful, Rosso, you're laughing to yourself: what does that mean? Rosso: I’m laughing because of a plot that has been made so skillfully that the master of bagatelle will not notice it, and I will tell you more at my leisure.” 47 (Text 7)


Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533) in the Cassaria, when the cunning Volpino plots a deception against the old master (Act Four - Scene II): “Volpino: But were he to come, come of his own will, I have already prepared for him the pocket to make him the cleanest and most beautiful game of bagatelle that any other master has ever made.”  48 (Text 8)


We conclude - but the examples could be even more numerous –  with the Assiuolo of Cecchi (date of composition 1549-1550) Act Three - Scene One:  “You will be served. Now begins this game of bagatelle”; the Straccioni of Caro (1543-1556), Act Four - Scene One: "O you, tell lies or fortune, make with us today the bagatelle"; and the Fantesca of Giovan Battista della Porta (1535-1615) (First Edition, 1592), Act I - Scene I: "And these who make bagatelle, make to be seen many things that are not true." 49 (Text 9 A-B-C)


When Baldassarre Castiglione (1478-1529) in the first book of the Cortegiano (Courtier) indicated activities that every good courtier must know and put into practice, he also suggested ones to avoid, "such as vaulting on the ground, going up the rope and such things that almost pertain to the giocolare [performer] and are hardly suitable for a gentleman" (come volteggiar in terra, andare in su la corda e tai cose, che quasi hanno del giocolare e poco sono a gentilomo convenienti). 50 The fact is that unlike the editio princeps of 1528, in the original notes and later manuscript (ca. 1513-1516), next to giocolare is also the term bagatella: "and do things that almost pertain to the  giocolare or bagatella, and are hardly suitable for a gentleman" (e tal cose che quasi hanno del giocolare o bagatella, e poco sono a gentilom convenienti). 51 Castiglione modified the sentence subsequently, removing bagatella, because, as a lover of precision, he wanted to indicate to courtiers the actual behaviors to be avoided, to leave no doubt about the interpretation of the latter.


To better clarify the difference that exists between giocolare and bagatella, we illustrate below the significance of the first term. Vittorio Cian, in his annotated 1894 edition of the work of Castiglione, derives it from the Medieval Latin jocularis, meaning jester, clown, acrobat. 52 Giocolare is therefore a term deriving from the Latin jocularis that in antiquity indicated facetious sayings or words, and he who uttered them was called joculator. In the Middle Ages joculator passed into designating the person who gladdened through singing, acting, dancing, and various games of skill; his public is that of the courts and of the streets, and jocularis his activity. Thus was born what in the vernacular is called first, in French and Occitan jo(n)gler and joglar, from which the Italian giullare [and the English juggler, in a sense now obsolete – trans.]. 53


 "The Latinate form giocolare," writes Ghino Ghinassi, "also has, in vulgar Italian, an ancient history, which dates back to the early centuries of the language, and is more or less a synonym of giullare: a synonym, it seems, of higher rank because of its closer proximity to formal Latin, and perhaps that is a bit less common than the word of French origin. For the rest, the two words can live and alternate in the same text, as happens, for example, in the Novellino, where Novella XLIII speaks of the same character as a giucolare first and then as a giullare, with perfect synonymy and interchangeability. However, it seems that, compared to that of bagatella, the context in which the word is located tends to have a more elevated and less derogatory connotation. The giocolare is encountered rather in the courts, both secular and ecclesiastical, or in the dining rooms of bishops (as in the passage of the Novella mentioned just now); it is more difficult to meet him in the plazas among the people, intent on performing clowning or tricks." 54


In summary, a giocolare must be construed as a giullare whose job is to entertain the public with music, dances and recitations, and with exercises of skill and physical dexterity. These are people who, though of humble origins, are exhibited at the courts and in the upper classes of society, without being the object of ridicule or considerations of disapproval. Throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the term giocolare maintained its own identity, then lost and replaced by giocoliere.


That the figure represented on the card of the Bagatto is a prestidigitator is not in question, and for the countless artworks that identify him as such, the nickname Bagatello is attributed to Francesco da Milano, a famous prestidigitator and author in about 1550 of one the first works on prestidigitation, entitled Opera nuova non più vista, nella quale potrai facilmente imparare molti giochi di mano. Composta da Francesco di Milano, nominato in tutto il mondo il Bagatello (New Work no longer seen, in which one can easily learn much sleight-of-hand. Written by Francesco di Milano, named all over the world the Bagatello).  55


Unlike the giocolare, the bagatello (as the name expressed) was considered a character of little value, a nothing [nulla], who used tricks and illusions to make money at the expense of the participants. In his "marvels" what seemed to be true in reality was only appearance and falsehood. A game of skill and dexterity that meant mischief and deceit. To demonstrate being able to turn in an instant into a whole piece of fabric that was first divided into many parts, betrayed something magical. The bagatello was a magician [mago] of skill, but as we know, the Church condemned all forms of magic, including those utilizing tricks, because the enemy of God, namely the Devil, as the Cistercian Isaac de l'Etoile (ca. 1110-1167/69) expressed in one of his sermons, was the "author of a thousand tricks." 56


The falsity of those who worked bagatelle, whether a prestidigitator or a master of deception, was therefore to be united to the untruth of the adversary of God, an enemy of virtue. Anton Francesco Doni, Academic of Peregrino, in Marmi (date of composition 1552-1553), puts into the mouth of Ghioro, after reading a book of maxims and exhortations, the following words: "Ghioro: Sir, first take from the Court all the flatterers, because those who love flattery are the enemy of truth. Drive away the clowns, banish the charlatans [cerretani], & the masters of bagatella, because they are all people who do pranks, & a Lord who is always occupied in frivolous things reluctantly attends to serious business. All the vagabonds & the unstable, always have far from you, because these are the enemies of virtue." 57 (Text 10)


The prestidigitators were considered vagabonds and the unstable par excellence because, for work, they were forced to move constantly from one place to another, even if they tended not to be welcome. The contexts in which the skill of the prestidigitator was regarded with suspicion, bordering on fraud, were in fact common. We report, as an example, an account of something that happened in the South Tyrol, taken from the Viaggio in Alamagna of Francesco Vettori, a journey he made in 1507-1508, given to the press in abridgement: "After eating, it happened in the tavern that a conjurer [ciurmatore] and giucolatore of bagatelle had a great following of people. And, although he spoke Italian, he used his hands more than language, and by chance assembled, with his articles, some amount of crazie (money). What he did I do not say, because of the rest we are so accustomed to seeing such things that to write of it would be superfluous. Nor had he finished gathering all his money and tidying his bagatelle (things), than arrived there perhaps ten familiars (servants of noble families), and with fury they tied him up and took him away." The host then explained to Vettori that it was not the custom in Germany to take away money "in this fashion."58 (Text 11)


From this passage and the other literary examples above, it is clear that bagatelle meant either the tricks of prestidigitation with the instruments of the magician [mago], or cunning actions generally, and not the people who actuated them.


Further evidence is in the poem “In lode dell’Orinale” (In praise of the chamber pot) of Francesco Berni (ca. 1520): "For others, the chamber pot is as valuable as three pouches, / And it has more closets and more secrets / Than the knapsacks for the bagatelle" 59 (Text 12). In this passage, "for equivocal allusion he compares the chamber pot with the bag of the illusionist, equipped with double bottoms and secret pockets that hide the tools of his magic [magie], considered bagatelle.”


Therefore Bagatella is to be understood, unlike Giocolare, not as nomen agentis, but as nomen actionis. The person who does the game [giochi] is the “bagattelliere” or “master of the bagatelles.”


“Bagattelle. per g. fem. t & l dop. Præstigia, Giuochi di mano.

Bagattelliere præstigiator. Colui che fa le bagattelle, frascherie, ciance” 60

(Bagattelle: feminine gender, T & L doubled. Prestidigitation,  Sleight of hand.

Bagattelliere: prestidigitator. One who does bagatelles, trifles, prattle)


However, in the Sermo perutilis de ludo, “El bagatella” must instead be understood as a nickname and in some cases, as described above with regard to Folengo’s Chaos del Tri Per Uno, as a person’s attribute as agent.


We have seen how the prestidigitators and their activities were viewed with suspicion, not only by the Church but also by civil society. Already in the Carolingian period Charlemagne had enacted legislation against those who calculate by means of spirits, those who use magic charms,  those who control the weather by magic, and those who heal by magic: “Ideo praecipimus ut calculatores, et incantatores, et tempestarii, vel obligatores non siant; et ubicumque sunt, emendentur vel damnentur… usque dum Deo inspirante spondeant emendationem peccato rum” (So we order that there not be calculators, and charmers, magicians of storms, or magic healers, and wherever they are, they be punished and sentenced... until, by the grace of God, they promise to mend from their sins.) 61


Albinus Alcuin (c.735-804) will say, “Qui Histriones et Mimos et Saltatores introducunt in domo suam, quam magna eos immondorum sequitur turba spiritum” (Those who introduce actors, mimes and acrobats into their home, how great a crowd of unclean spirits follows them), 62 and Salvianus in the fifth century, “Spectacula sunt diaboli” (Shows are of the devil). 63


St. Bernard of Clairvaux in a sermon of 1150 will say "A man who frequents giocolieri [word in Italian translation, here meaning the bagattellieri] will soon have a bride named Poverty. If it happens that the tricks of the prestidigitators [prestigiatori in the Italian translation] strike your attention, make it a habit to avoid them and to banish them from your thought. The tricks of the prestidigitators [prestigiatore] are never pleasing to God." 64


John of Salisbury (1120-1180) advised princes even to exterminate, rather than nurture, all members of the "familia Diaboli," against whom no law had been enacted: "Nam de histrionibus et mimis, scurris et meretricibus, lenonibus et huiusmodi prodigiis hominum, quae principem potius oportet exterminare uam fovere, non fuerat in lege mentio facienda” (In fact, as regards actors, mimes, buffoons, prostitutes, pimps and similar aberrations [or abominations] of men that those who govern should rather exterminate than favor, no mention was made in legislation). 65


Proceeding from this request, it falls to Bernard of Clairvaux to write the rules for a new order, which would bear the name MILITUM XPISTI or Militia of the Temple or Poor Knights of Christ. On January 14, 1128, in the Cathedral of Troyes, in the presence of several representatives of the Church, and after a long debate, the Rule of the Temple was passed, giving definitive birth to the Templar Order. Bernard will emphasize in De laude novae militiae the substantial differences that distinguish the new order from the lay knights, among them contempt for mimes and magicians [maghi], which are dismissed as vanity and folly:


"Scacos et aleas detestantur; abhorrent venationem, nec ludica illa avium rapina, ut assolte, delectantur. Mimos et mago set fabulatores, scurrilesque cantilenas, atque ludorum spectacula, tamquam vanitates et insanias falsas respuunt et abominantur" (They hate chess and dice games, have a horror of hunting and in the ridiculous persecution of birds they do not find the customary pleasure. They avoid and abhor mimes and magicians, storytellers, scurrilous songs, and the spectacles of games, which they condemn and reject as vanities and deceitful follies). 66


Yet it could not be otherwise, since, as Jacques Le Goff writes on the concept of work in the Middle Ages "Man must work in the image of God. The work of God is the creation. Every profession that is not creative is therefore inglorious or inferior. You have to do like the farmer, who creates the masses, or at least like the artisan, who transforms the raw material in question. Not being able to create, we must transform – ‘mutare’ -, modify – ‘emendare’ - improve – ‘meliorare.’ So the merchant is condemned because he does not create anything. This is an essential mental structure of Christian society, nourished by a theology and morality that flourished in pre-capitalist regimes. The medieval ideology is materialistic in the strict sense. Only material production has value. The abstract value defined by a capitalist economy escapes it, is repugnant to it, is condemned by it. 67 A concept that "is clearly evident in various manuals of confessors, particularly in Thomas Cobham, who cites Aristotle." 68


Later, between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, the economic revolution will lead to limiting the contempt regarding many professions previously considered sinful. Due to the condemnation of merchants, a   craftsmen like any other, the evil intention will remain, that is, acting out of cupidity - "ex cupiditate"– and love of gain - "lucri causa."


With this reading of “lucri causa” and “ex cupiditate,” it is necessary to assess the presence of the Artixan (Artisan) in the so-called Tarot of Mantegna: a warning addressed to the artisans lest they fall into these two bad intentions, responsible for condemnation and, consequently, the ruin of the soul. A lesson that we will see in the continuation addressed to all those who act by bagatelle. 


The attitude of the Church will remain constant in the condemnation of prestidigitators. Bertoldo da Ratisbonda, in the 13th century, rejects from Christian society only the jumble of vagabonds, wanderers, the "vagrants." They form the "familia Diaboli," the family of the Devil, in front of all other trades, all other "states" now admitted into the family of Christ, the "familia Christi." 69 All the members of the “familia Diaboli” were placed at the bottom of the social ladder because they not only led dishonest lives, but they induced others to do so. The danger was twofold, as their sin doubled. But the condemnation of the Church is not only addressed to them; with equal intensity the sentence also fell on their audience.


In their condemnation of the prestidigitators, the Dominicans were no less than other religious orders: in a passage of the Salterio di Gesù e Maria, the Breton Dominican Beato Alano de la Roche (1428 -1475) tells of the meeting of Saint Dominic with some infernal beasts. Upon the questioning of these last manifested, it will be said, according to the modern Italian translation, that they are "the fifteen Queens of hell, the seductresses of the world" and exercise their command "on the magicians [maghi] themselves and the prestidigitators [prestigiatori] similar to them," also on the astrologers, inasmuch as "the premonitions that they pretend to foretell, as truths from the stars, are invented by our deceptions." 70


There were five ways in which demons were considered able to deceive, as described by Tommaso Garzoni in Il Serraglio De gli Stupori del Mondo (The Enclosure of the Wonders of the World):


Apartment of the Prestidigitators [Prestigioso]

Second Stanza - Summary


"It is called Demonic prestidigitation exercised either by the Devil [Demonio] himself, or by magi working by virtue of him, when however each of these is permitted by God: since the Demons by their own nature have a certain power over certain inferior things, which they can exercise when God permits it, to make those things appear different from what they are. However, it must be known that in five ways the devil can prestidigitate (or conjure), or deceive anyone, and make sure that he judges a thing in another way than that which is in effect.


The first way is done with agitation, or artificial treatment, … & the devil can do this. too, & much better than man, since he can know much better than man the things that are done by art, and better accommodate themselves to those.


The second way is done with the application, or adhibition, or interposition of a body placed between the eye and the thing seen, as was said in declaring the second sort of Prestidigitation, because with these such things better than man can deceive the Devil knowing them even better than that.


The third way is, when in the absorbed body it shows itself to be a thing that it is not; as for example St. Gregory narrates in the first book of his Dialoghi, of a Nun who ate a Lettuce, which in truth (as the Devil said) was not Lettuce, but indeed a Demon in the form of lettuce, or rather he was in that lettuce; the same also appeared to Saint Anthony in the form of a mass of gold in the desert, and likewise when, covering a real man, it makes him appear to be another animal or beast. And this is no great marvel (says Pico in his essay) because if a body can deceive bodily perceptions, and make a thing appear to it differently than it is, as we see done in glass that imprints its color in the eye in such a way that it makes all other things appear similar to it in colour, although in themselves they are colored otherwise, how much more will spirits naked of any body, that is, demons, be able to disturb the imagination and deceive the eyes and other perceptions of inferior creatures. Moreover, the aforementioned Pico says that it seems that demons change one species of animal into another; and it is not true that this is the case: but it is very true that it makes it appear thus, either by imprinting said species and fake figures in the imagination, and fantasy, or by placing another fake species and figure before the bodily eyes.


The fourth way is, when he disturbs the visual organ to make one thing appear for another: verbi gratia, making a dark thing appear clear, from making another clear thing appear hazy. This can also proceed naturally, as one sees through experience in those who weep, who after weeping, because of the humours congregated there, at times the light appears to them to be different from what it seemed before, and rubbing their eyes, after the rubbing sees things in another way, which they did not see before: with which way, both demonically and naturally, an old woman appears to the eye of others sometimes young; just as to Fulgentio Lionello, partly due to his corrupted imagination around women, partly due to the organ of the face ordinarily disturbed, it happened one day that a coffin of a dead person appeared, and it seemed to him that she was a Gentlewoman lying in the Church and ran there to help her stand up, to the great laughter of some bystanders.


The Fifth way is when the Devil works in our imaginative power, and he does this with the emotion of the humors by transmuting the sensitive species, so that in the sensitive powers they cause almost fresh and new appearances; how it would be verbi gratia [for the sake of examples] (say Spranger and Institore [authors of the Malleus Maleficarum – trans.] in the second part to the first question) when those things that are fiery or aquatic, are made to appear earthy or dry…71 (Text 13)


Condemnation of the bagatellieri remained firm and constant, because of the vain and deceitful character of their actions. Thus Garzoni writes in the Chapter on “Creatori di spettacoli in generale, e dei ceretani o ciurmatori in particolare” (Creators of spectacles in general, and of charlatans [cerretani, purveyors of fake medicine] or illusionists [ciurmatori] in particular), from his Piazza Universale di tutte le professioni del mondo (Universal Plaza of all professions in the world) (1585):


"But there is a certain sort of modern spectacle conceived by various kinds of charlatans [ceretani], of which I intend, to satisfy the curiosity of the world, … particularly to discuss. The charlatans [ceretani] then...  among the vile rabble have now acquired such credit that they get a major share of the competition for the public, and more pleased applause than excellent speakers of the divine word and honored professors of the sciences and applied arts, who can boast a small crowd of the public in comparison to that surrounding the cerretani. There was still some memory of this profession in the ancient world, since the bagatellieri, in Latin called gesticolatores, and according to the Greeks chironomi, got some moment of fame, giving pleasure with bagatelle and stupidities... But in our times, the number and kinds of these have grown like weeds, so that for every city, every land, every plaza, one sees nothing but charlatans [ceretani] or street entertainers [cantinbanchi], who one could more easily call earnings-eaters than any other name. And all with vain arts and deceit they delude the minds of the populace, and entice their ears to hear their nonsense, their eyes to see the bagatelle (actions they carry out), and all their senses attentive to the ridiculous actions that they do in the plazas ... " 72 (Text 14)


Some of the “sinners” that converted gave to the Church their assets acquired by sin. In the year 1058 a certain Alberto, repenting of his life led up to that time, made a donation to the Rectory "consisting of two pieces of land with houses, and five enclosures of arable fields." 73 From this we can deduce how lucrative this type of business was. 


At this point, to those who wonder why the figure of a prestidigitator was placed as the card to start the Triumphs, we remember the ethical-Christian meaning that characterizes the entire triumphal structure, 74 which we set out in other interventions 75 and which we give below for expository convenience: "From the first order of Triumphs known, 76 dating from the early sixteenth century, it is clear that it was an ethical game. The Prestidigitator (Bagatto) depicts the common man, to whom is given temporal guides, the Empress and Emperor, and spiritual guides, the Pope and Popess (Faith). Human instincts come to be mitigated by the virtues: Love by Temperance and the desire for power, or the Chariot, by Strength (the Christian virtue Fortitude). The Wheel of Fortune teaches that every success is ephemeral and that the powerful are destined to become dust. The Hermit, who follows the Wheel, is time, to which each must be subject, and the need for every person to reflect on the real value of existence, while the Hanged Man (the Traitor) denounces the danger of falling into temptation and sin by betraying his Creator before Death overtakes him.


Even the Hereafter is represented according to the traditional medieval conception: Hell, and then the Devil, are placed under the earth's crust, above which extend the heavenly spheres. As in the Aristotelian cosmos, the sphere of the Earth is surrounded by a circle of "celestial fires", depicted by lightning striking a Tower. The celestial spheres are synthesized by three main celestial bodies: Venus, the Star par excellence, the Moon and the Sun. The highest sphere is the Empyrean, home of the Angels that at the Day of Judgment will be called to wake the dead from their graves. On that day divine Justice will triumph, weighing souls and dividing the good from the evil. Above all is the World, that of "God the Father," as the anonymous monk wrote who commented on the Tarot at the beginning of the sixteenth century (Read on this, the iconographic essay about this Triumph). The same monk places the Fool after the World, as if to indicate his foreignness to every rule and teaching in so far as, lacking reason, he was not able to understand the revealed truth. 77 At the same time the structure of the triumphs, demonstrating an ethical education through the various steps (triumphs) of the Staircase, suggested to the non-believer, also in the person of the Fool - considered such because he is a non-believer even if endowed with reason - that he could reach the contemplation of the Divine by following the path of the Spirit.


It is more than obvious that such a type of education was not intended to sum up Christian religious ethics for the wise and virtuous, but for sinners, those who more than any other needed to be converted to good. For this reason, putting the image of the bagatella, in the sense of “sinful action” (nomen actionis), was done to emphasize a point of departure that represented the ultimate symbol of sin. To the question, "why the figure of a prestidigitator and not another sinner," I respond by saying that the Church understood the bagatella as one of the greatest expressions of sin, so as to create a topos in the fifteenth century, the era in which the term appeared, which was perpetuated in the history of the Church until the nineteenth century. In such a situation it will be necessary for us to change what we have written on the meaning of the Bagatto, adding to "the common man," the attribute of "sinner."


The Abbé de Feller, commenting on the work of Louis François Gauthier (1696-1780) in Traité contre l'amour des parures et de luxe des habits (Treatise against love of ornaments and luxury in clothes), 78 writes that:


"The title recalls the excellent treatise by the same author on Les mauvaises chansons [The bad songs], 79 a matter that the minds of the century treat as bagatelles, and which is a major source of corruption of morals and unbridled libertinism, which throws into restlessness and desolation all levels of society" (Le titre de l'ouvrage rappelle l'excellent traité sur les mauvaises chansons, matière que le esprits dù siècle traitent de bagatelle et qui est une des grandes sources de la corruption des mœurs et du libertinage effréné qui inquiète et désole tous les états de la société.) 80


Feller writes that Gauthier “wants, with St Paul, that women who profess godliness (and the same goes for men) be dressed in decent clothes, and be adorned modestly." He adds that men who occupy themselves too much with their ornaments pass for effeminate, and women, for vain and easy. For, he says, if those women are chaste, their chastity at least does not appear in these bagatelles. They say that those ornaments give no reason to think the worst, but I reply that the Devil always thinks evil" (Il veut, avec S. Paul, que les femmes qui font profession de Piété, - & il en faut, dit-il, dire autant des hommes - soient vêtus d' Habits bienséans, & qu'elles soient modestement parées. Il ajoûte que les hommes qui s'occupent trop de leurs Parures, passent avec raison pour des efféminés, & les femmes pour être vaines & faciles. Car, dit-il, si elles ont de la chasteté; elle ne paroît pas au moins dans ces bagatelles. On dit qu'on n'y pense pas de mal; mais je réponds que le Diable en pense toujours). 


Below, considering the work of Abbé Maydieu, Histoire de la vertueuse Portugaise, ou le modèle des femmes chrétiennes, on the education of the people, 81 Feller writes: "On verra dans cet ouvrage des tableaux alarmans de tous les genres de vices, et sur-tout de que la dégradation celui des moeurs distinguishes par le nom bagatelle" (One will see in this work alarming reports of all kinds of vices, and especially those that the degradation of morals indicates by the name bagatelle), explaining in the following, in a note,  what this type of sin consists in: "The sin that degrades human nature the most, which enervates it, which blinds it, which deprives it of its nobility and legitimate pride, enslaves it to the most humiliating sensations, is called a bagatelle. It is indeed with reason that the Sage warns us, that the foolish man commits his crime in the manner of a joke. Quasi per risum stultus operatur scelus. Prov. X. 23. [A fool worketh mischief as it were for sport]." 82 (On appelle la bagatelle le péché qui degrade plus la nature humaine, qui l'énerve, qui l'aveugle, qui la depouillant de sa noblesse et d'une fierté legitime, l'asservit aux plus humiliantes sensations. C'est bien avec raison que le Sage nous avertit, que l'homme insensé commet le crime, par manière de badinage: Quasi per risum stultus operatur scelus. Prov. X. 23). 


Commenting on the passage in Proverbs, we say, as already written elsewhere, 83 that the Fool of the Tarot is the fool who needs to come out of his position of non-believer to reach, even to become, following in the footsteps of the Saint of Assisi, the fool of God. The Bagatto believes in God, but believes he can overlook a lot of things imposed by the Church, considering them bagatelle, trivial things and of little value at the end in the Last Judgment. Among these, not caring much or not at all for his own soul, he spends the good time given by God taking care excessively of his own body, in fun, in fighting, coming to regard as a mere bagatelle even the Mass and the Eucharist.


The Church borrowed the term by which certain languages identified a sin of little importance, all in all a peccadillo, on the contrary elevating it, as the name and symbol of great guilt. Examples of this are countless. We will report various ones, going backwards from the nineteenth to the sixteenth century.


Says the priest Giuseppe Cafasso (1811 - 1860) addressing the youth: "Youths and girls who listen to me, you will often feel like telling the world that these jokes, these sins are nothing, they are bagatelles; but what is not true is that these are sins not great enough that God will send to hell for these bagatelles, which punish enough those that commit them; listen: take a good look at this language, what you allow to be said, you allow to be done, stand you fast in this that faith is telling you. These things are the greatest evil, and lead many unfortunate souls to hell: we sense on the lips of many, unfortunately, that the law of not eating meat on Friday and the Sabbath is foolishness [minchioneria], a sham, a whim of men, and no man has this right, you feel that there is no more need to go to confession, one could be saved without Confession, being a burden placed by the Church, and not by God: My dears, false, false; faith obliges us to believe that the sacraments, and among them Confession, were established by God, and faith obliges us to believe and profess that the Church was founded by God, having received all its authority from him, who wants and requires the good of souls. O believe all these truths, or renounce the baptism, renounce the name and character of Christians." 84 (Text 15) 


Giacomo Margotti (1823-1887), priest and doctor of theology, writes: "As to the questions of bread, which includes all the questions of prosperity, and of the good and beautiful life, these all men care for. As for that which reflects the glory of God, and the moral progress of the city, it is considered a bagatella." 85 (Text 16)


So the Capuchin of the Province of Veneta, Marino di Cadore (Giuseppe Zanetti, 1745-1827):


 "Here then under the weight of these sins that are believed worthless bagatelles, fragility of nature, convenience in the world, under the weight of these aggravated sins Jesus Christ is fallen, fallen face down,  the joy of Heaven is afflicted, the glory of the Angels is saddened, the author of life is attacked by the horror of death;  tristis, trìstìs est anima mea usque ad mortem [sad, sad is my soul until death].” 86 (Text 17)


In similar fashion, Giuseppe Antonio Costantini (1692-1772): "Ours is a great deception, and too common in the major part of Women, and I think also of Men, the belief in satisfying the duties of religion with bagatelle that cost us no commitment. To believe that you can caress your passions and be friends of God. To have the heart of the Wolf and the coat of the Lamb. No, no, we are not deceived there, beloved friend, one must first purge the interior, and win over those inclinations that make us hostile to God. But to feed a black heart, and have a white robe, will always be the color of betrayal." 87 (Text 18)


Angelo Paciuchelli da Montepulciano (seventeenth century), brother of the Order of  Preachers and Provincial of te Roman Province writes: "And a great opprobrium to men who clothe themselves vainly, and adorn themselves as if they were women... In these past few days, we have seen a man in church, where there were many people, who in the presence of all, drew a mirror from his hatband, very artfully tidied up, and viewed himself in it, arranged his collar, hair, and beard. Whoever wanted to go down the particulars would never finish describing so many bagatelle and madnesses of men." 88 (Text 19)


So Brother Benedetto Fedele of San Filippo (seventeenth century), Franciscan of the Third Order, in his Panegirico Decimoquarto: "There can never be a small one, for one set up for the acquisition of great things. While the small man labors to acquire small things, an apple, a little robe, or a similar bagatella.” 89 (Text 20) 


The polymath adventurer Gregorio Leti (1630-1701), in this passage of the Historia Genevrina, warns the religious authorities to enjoin the parish priests to bring peace to the family rather than to do preaching that only the wind listens to. More pastoral care was necessary because family divisions would lead to litigations, a result of these bagatelle that they did not consider sins to be punished by Divine Justice:


"From wiser men I have always intended to say that as a remedy for this problem, it would be worthwhile for Ministers to be relieved of the weight of so many useless sermons that are  made to the wind, or even to pews of churches, and to recommend to them a little more pastoral care, visiting the sick, and maintaining good union in families, because I dare say with my blushes, that more libertine men, not only the most upright, are shocked to see in Geneva many differences, so many conflicts and many enmities between Father and Child, between Husband and Wife, and between near relatives, without any Minister intervening to reconcile them with Christian charity, before they are stung by divine justice because of these discords that are reputed bagatelle; the orders of the Church are optimal in this, if they paid attention & performed." 90 (Text 21)


In order to gain participation in divine glory, it was necessary, as stated by Brother Francesco da Sestri (1619 -?), Capuchin Minor, to abandon earthly bagatelle, as infants do leaving their swaddlings: La Ragione, Parte Due (The Argument - Part Two):


“But, passing from the letter to the spirit, with good reason was celebrated with festivities, with music, and feasting the day on which children are weaned, because it mystically represented the time when children began not just to live, but to live well: they leave little children in need of milk, and initiate them into being human, that nourished with the sustenance of food they dare more, to grow in virtue, in which, emerging from swaddling, minutia and earthly bagatelle, they are introduced to investigating, to looking, & and to questioning heavenly & eternal goods: in which, detached from the breasts of the world and the enticements of the flesh, they sigh and aspire to the beloved and happy ones in Paradise, they really taste the table of the Eternal Father prepared in the Eucharistic Sacrament, which offers them the fatted calf, which fattens their souls, and fills them with grace, because in their time they are partakers in glory." 91 (Text 22)


Lorenzo de Zamora († 1614), Cistercian monk and reader of Sacred Scripture in the College of St. Bernard of Alcala, talking about the attributes of the divine essence, denounces in the strongest possible terms, reputing as lifeless and spiritless bagatelle, the idols and "certain little Gods." Of the attributes of the Divine Essence (Book One - Fourth Discourse): "There are certain meaningless Gods, made to the taste of each, figurines & bagatelle without spirit and lifeless, things of fable without value, similar to those that young girls sometimes made while working in the house of their Master. And yet in this they are given too much honor, because the things of fable and figurines represent at least something, an attractive bride or a lascivious youth or other similar things. But the Idols are nothing, vanity and chimera, that man creates in his mind… God is one alone and singular, who dwells in himself, & not as some believe, in a place beyond the universe; he is all in himself, is all complete in all his parts, considering & ordering the generations of things. We have one God alone, & everything else is a joke. Nil est in mundo [Nothing is in the world]. Bagatelle & nonsense are idols worshiped by the Pagans for Gods." 92 (Text 23)


On 17 November 1616, the Holy Inquisition of Venice investigated a Monsignor of Split, suspected of heresy for having transmitted to England “scripta contraria sanctae romanae ecclesiae ac fidei catholice” (writings against the Roman Church and the Catholic faith). During the questioning of witnesses, one of them admitted that in fact that Monsignor had gone to England in order to publish a new doctrine different from the Catholic one, Bagatelle for that Monsignor, but horrible crime for the Inquisition.


“Vocatus comparuit reverendissimus dominus Sfortia Ponzonus archiepiscopi Spalatensis, cui delato iuramento de veritate dicenda, pront tacto pectore, imantinenter

“Interrogatus, who tells what he knows about the departure of Monsignor Marco Antonio de Dominis his preceptor, and about the ideas or counsel put into print, and which has already been noted in this holy court.

“Respondit: I know very well that said letter is written and signed by the hand of  Monsignor de Dominiis, former archbishop of Split, because I know his writing, having had many of his other letters while I was in Rome.

“Interrogatus, who speaks on what he has understood from the brother of the one to whom he has just spoken, about his journey and thoughts.

“Respondit: I found out that his trip was to England with the thought of publishing a new doctrine discrepant from that which the Catholic church holds, as my brother will tell you more fully.

“Interrogatus: if said monsignor during the trip or in other location has expressed to him the motive for which he went to England.

“Respondit: he said that he went to systematize some bagatelle [Italian in original] on the subject of religion and faith, since the people of England are considered by us damned, and that he wanted to unite them to us making little effort, saying, that he would very easily have succeeded there.” 93 (Text 24)


The Dominican philosopher, theologian and poet Tommaso Campanella, born Giovanni Domenico Campanella (1568-1639), for his religious beliefs underwent five trials. Here are some of the statements of the witnesses questioned by the Holy Inquisition regarding Campanella and his disciples (In the original, the word bagatella is in Italian): 


First trial, done by Brother Marco da Marcianise and Cornelio di Nizza in Monteleone. "Acts instituted by the trial with the charges, September 1, 1599" (Inquisitionis Acta contra PP. Fratres Thoman Campanellam, Dionisium de Neocastro, Johann Baptistam de Pizzone et alios Inquisitos.) 94


“Examination of Caesar Pisano, cleric, October 19


“(Questioned about Campanella) ‘Interrogatus said again  . . . that to worship the sacrament on the altar is a bagatella, that it is a nothing to worship and a folly to believe it . . .’ 95


“Examination of Gio Tomaso Caccia, cleric, exiled, October 19


“(Questioned on Brother Dioniso) ‘Interrogatus... respondit: “Father, I tell you the truth, I did not hear anything from Pontio unless a heresy; when, staying together in Pizzoni in the dormitory I heard the bells ring for Mass, I said, Brother Dioniso, I want to go to Mass, and then he told me ‘that Mass!’, joking about the holy sacrifice, and adding that they were giocherelle, and because I was shocked, he said, You who are monks should show me devotion, while contrarily, he says that the mass is a giocarella thing, and to this he added: "or stupid, this is a bagatella, and I then went below to hear the mass that Brother Silvestro said, and he went away without coming to mass." 96 (Text 25)


In the summary of the case against Campanella written by Monsignor di Caserta (Summarium Processus contra Fratrem Thoman Campanellam), a witness questioned "respondit where he said quod Santissimus Sacramentus eucharestiae erat solum pro ratione status, I say that Brother Cornelio wrote that I had said, and instead I had not said such a thing neither do I know what thing he wants to say for 'reason of state,' neither least of all have I heard Campanella saying that this sacrament was a bagatella, and that it was madness to believe that in it was the Body of Christ: but he said about the sacrament that there were some superstitions and other words that seemed to me bad, but I don't know that he openly denied that in the consecrated wafer there was the body of Christ." 97 (Text 26)


Remaining within the inquisitorial ambit, a book manuscript of the middle of the 16th century informs us of a trial set in Modena against heretics or those suspected of belonging to orientations not reconcilable with the Catholic faith. Some of them were accused of holding theological positions of a certain severity: a Giacomo Graziani is delatus de eucherestia, de delectu ciborum e de libero arbitrio [denounced regarding the Eucharist, for choice of food and regarding free will]; the referees just focus on the Eucharist in their criticism of the investigated Ferrante Castaldi and Ventura Paroleno, of whom a witness reported that of cum consecrasset plures hostias dixit [when many hosts were consecrated he said] many believed that these, the body of Christ, were bagatelle [original word in Italian – trans.], meaning the consecrated host as a bagatella, that is, thing of little account, almost a joke. 98 


In a letter of 1515, addressed to Martin Dorp (1485-1525) by Thomas More (1478-1535), the latter, with the intention of discussing and commenting on a theological analysis by his friend, quotes a passage that Dorp had written in a letter addressed to Erasmus. Here is the passage in question, in a critical and philological translation of the original letter [now literally translated into English; it differs in some respects from the published English translation, of which I give the relevant sentence at the end – trans.]:


From "Letter of Thomas More to Martin Dorp” (Bruges, 21 October 1515) 


"Do not let yourself be persuaded, Erasmus, that anyone with a literal understanding of the text of the Bible or even someone with Origen’s knack for discovering a moral significance is already a perfect theologian. There are many things yet to be learned which are not only more difficult to understand but also more useful to the flock for whom Christ died. How else are we to know how we ought to administer the sacraments, what their forms are, when we ought to absolve and when we ought to refuse absolution to a sinner, how much restitution we must make and how much we can keep, and innumerable other things of that sort? Unless I am very mistaken, you can learn a good deal of the Bible by heart much more easily than you can learn to unravel even one of those perplexities which crop up by the score every day, in which even four words can detain one indefinitely—unless what you call theological trifles [bagatelle in the Italian translation, næniasin the Latin original] includes all that pertains to the sacraments, though without them, according to God’s holy catholic church, man’s salvation is endangered." 99a


[The published English translation has “Unless, whatever relates to the sacraments, and without them man’s salvation is impaired, as the Holy Catholic Church of God maintains – unless you would refer to that as the ditties of theologians.” 99b (“Ditties” in English usually refers to light melodies or songs, but here has the sense of “frivolities” – trans.]


After that More writes: "Believe me, Dorp, if you yourself had not written this yourself, nothing in the world could have made me believe that you held this opinion.”99c


The following is the original Latin text:


“’Non persuadeas, Erasme, tibi eum demum absolutum esse theologum, qui Bibliæ seriem ad litteram intelligat; nec eum item qui morales sensus, æque atque alter Origines novit erigere. Multa restant discenda, ut intellectu difficiliora, ita et utiliora gregi pro quo mortuus est Christus. Alioqui qui sciemus, ut sacramenta sint administranda; quænam sint eorum formæ, quando absoluendus peccator, quando sit reijciendus; quid præceptum sit restitui, quid servari possit; et innumera eiusmodi? Multum nisi erro, longe minori opera bonam Bibliae partem edisceres, priusquam vel unius perplexitatis nodum discas dissolvere; cuiusmodi plurimi cottidie occurrunt, ubi vel in quattuor verbis diutissime hærendum est. Nisi tu has etiam voces theologorum nænias, quæcunque ad sacramenta pertineant; sine quibus tamen Sancta Dei Ecclesia Catholica profitetur salutem hominis periclitari.’ Crede mihi, Dorp, nisi hæc tute scriberes, nunquam adduci possem, hæc te sentire ut crederem.” 100  


Nænias” is here a standard Latin equivalent of “bagatella,” used in one form or another since the Middle Ages.


In a footnote to his “’Bagatelle’ and ‘Figmenta’ in Pompanazzi e Averroè (‘Bagatelle’ and ‘Figmenta’ in Pompanazzi and Averroes”), Gilberto Sacerdoti writes [in Italian, of which we give a version in English here – trans.] about bagatelle in the context of the philosopher and jurist Jean Bodin (1529-1596) in his Colloque 101, as translated French from Latin in the seventeenth century. This work is a dialog among seven imagined savants representing different theological points of view. Octavius represents Islam, Curtius defends Calvinism, and Salomon represents Judaism. Sacerdoti cites specific pages in a 1984 edition of the seventeenth-century translation.


On p. 257, certain beliefs useful to salvation’ are ‘bagatelles,’ but actually belong to superstition, 102 such as the Jewish use of phylacteries and Roman Catholics’ hanging around their neck the beginning of the Gospel of St. John. On pp. 268-269 the Muslim Octavius affirms that the Koran contains the only important things and ‘rient qui sent la bagatelle’ [nothing which feels a bagatelle], but to Curtius it seems that ‘when Muslims believe they blot out their sins by washing often’ they are ‘telling children’s stories’ and that this practice is not easily distinguishable from that observed by the ‘Western Indians of New Spain, that when they vomit at the foot of the altar of their idols, they believe that their sins are going away.’ On p. 414, Salomon considers as ‘a bagatelle that does not deserve mentioning’ as much ‘the vision on Mount Tabor where Moses and Elijah, left and right, witnessed the triumph of Jesus Christ’ as the solar eclipse that occurred at the death of Jesus On p. 500, finally, Salomon considers as ‘bagatelles’ all the ‘subtleties’ of a theological type.” 103


[Addition by translator: All of this pertains only to the seventeenth-century translation, not to the sixteenth-century Bodin, who wrote in Latin. The extant Latin text does not in fact use terms such as de nulla or  Nænias. However, an examination of the French in comparison with the Latin does at least show what the translator means by bagatella.


About the Jewish use of phylacteries, etc., the Latin has (pp. 162-163): “FRIDERICUS: Tanta Judaeorum superstitio est, ut satis esse putent ad salutem adipiscendam, eas membranas circumferre, ut quidem Catholici [163] principium evangelii Johannis collo alligant, ea spe ac fiducia, ut ab omnibus calamitatibus ac morbis tuti sint, quas ligaturas execrabiles appellat Augustinus.”


The published English translation reads (p. 211): “FREDERICUS. The Jews are so superstitious that they think that carrying around these parchments is sufficient for attaining salvation; similarly, some Catholics bind the beginning of John’s gospel on their necks in the faithful hope that they may be safe from all calamities and sickness. Augustine calls these accursed amulets.”


About the contents of the Koran, what Octavius says is (p. 170): “Alcoranus, qui a collectione sic dicitur vel Alphaticianus a distinctione capitum, quae 123 numerantur, nihil habet ineptiarum, nihil sibi contrarium, nihil repugnans, ut putarunt Dionysius Carthusianus et Cardinalis S. Sixti, qui adversus legem Muhammedis scripserunt.”


The English translation reads (p. 223): “Alkoran, which is so called from its collection, or Alphurcanus from the distinction of its 123 headings, has no absurdities, no contradictions, no offensiveness, as Dionysius Carthusianus and the Cardinal of St. Sixtus believed, who wrote against the law of Mohammed.”


The French text about the Transfiguration and solar eclipse says: “Sans m'arrester a cette Aphoteose de la Montagne de Tabor, qui pour n'estre qu'une bagatelle pour ne merite pas que l'on en parle, ceux pechent lourdement contre l'histoire qui sont les Autheurs de cette Ecclipse solaire” (Without stopping at this Aphotheosis of Mount Tabor, which for being only a bagatelle does not deserve to be spoken about, those sin heavily against history who are the Authors of this Solar Eclipse).


Here is the corresponding sentence in the Latin (p. 265): “Ut apotheosin Thaboritanam illam, non satis dignam quae refelli mereatur, omittam, graviter peccatur in historiam ab illis solaris deliquii inventoribus.”


Literally, this says: “Omitting that Taborite apotheosis, not worthy enough to deserve refutation,  it is a grave sin on history by those inventors of solar iniquity." The published English translation has (p. 347): “I shall pass over that transfiguration on Mt. Tabor as unworthy of refutation. These authors made a serious mistake in their record of the solar eclipse.”


What corresponds to the anonymous translator’s bagatelle is only the phrase “not worthy enough to deserve refutation.” Why is it unworthy? Not because if true, it would be a trifle not worth talking about, but rather that it is a mere figment of the imagination. In using the term bagatelle, the French translator again captures this implied sense.


Thus what Sacerdoti says about bagatelle only applies to the seventeenth-century French version, not Bodin himself, who uses a variety of terms: "ineptiarum," "execrabiles," and "non satis dignam quae refelli mereatur." To say that Bodin himself had a single concept translated as "bagatelle" is simply reading into the Latin what is not there.


All the same, the anonymous translator’s use of “bagatelle” is still of interest, because it gives a slightly different twist on the term. If the translation is accurate, then bagatelles are not confined to trifles, sleight-of-hand tricks, and frauds, but also can include what the speaker considers superstitions, absurdities, and figments of imagination treated as truth – in other words,  “to express disbelief in what has just been said” (pour exprimer que l'on ne croit pas ce qui vient d'être dit), as an authoritative online French dictionary puts it (]


In this regard, the discussion of certain biblical stories by the famous Italian philosopher Pietro Pompanazzi (1462-1575), interpreting the Arabic philosopher Averroes (1126-1198), is of interest for his use of the term bagatella. Sacerdoti writes:


“Commenting on the Commentator [i.e., Averroes] before his students in Bologna, Pomponazzi lingers ‘with evident satisfaction on certain expressions of Averroes, of dark color as regards the faith.’ ‘As Aristotle says,’ Pomponazzi explains, ‘it is impossible to live without laws,’ clarifying with scant equivocation that by ‘laws’ he means to speak ‘de legibus fidei’ [of laws of faith]. Now, enunciating these necessary laws, the religious Legislator is constrained to speak ‘in a different way from the philosopher.’ Rather, what he proposes is that the ‘multitudo bene faciat,’[multitude do good] and thus in the discourses contained in his leges he ‘does not care about the truth,’ because he knows ‘however,’ that a goodly number of men are exactly like ‘beasts,’ who do not let themselves be guided by the truth of reason, but only by the ‘sensitive appetite.’ Therefore, to induce the community to ‘behave well,’ the lawmakers say, for example, ‘you will go to hell,’ and thus in their laws behave exactly like ‘the nurse with the baby,’ when, to educate them, they ‘give them to understand’ a lot of fables and ‘other bagatelle,’ because the laws are set up ‘ut homines to pacem reducantur’ [that men may be brought back to peace]. Among these ‘bagatelle’ necessary for the education of the vulgar are to be counted some stories that speak of sacrifices and immolations. Commenting on Aristotle's Poetics, Pomponazzi in his lectures of 1518 reports, ‘Averroes cites that when Abraham wanted to sacrifice his son, and says that this is a figmentum [fiction], and that legislators, so as to induce men to worship God, pretend many things, and it is fatuous to believe that he had wanted to sacrifice his son, and says that the laws were invented for rough men, so that they will be obedient to God.’” 104


Therefore, the attitude of a certain part of the rationalist believers, who regarded as bagatelle – meaning figments of the imagination - many biblical stories, is not to be blamed, Pompanazzi is saying, despite the Church's assessment of that position as a sin.


As a final example, here is a passage [translated from the Italian translation – trans.] in the life of St. Victor (3rd-4th century), who in this fashion expressed himself before the Court of Prefects, after being tortured by the Emperor in vain that he might repudiate his beliefs:


"But am I to be condemned, because I prefer to present goods and storm the eternal? Would I not be a fool, if I considered of greater value these bagatelles [bagatelle, term translated from the Latin -trans.], than the goods of the other life, which are of an endless value? The favor of princes, pleasures, honors, glory, health, life itself, which are not other, in truth, than goods that neither can be always had when they are wanted, nor can be enjoyed for long, and whose possession is embittered continuously by the fear of losing them? Will it not be a correct and praiseworthy thing to prefer to the enjoyment of whichever terrestrial thing, eternal life and the grace of him who has created the whole, and renders perfectly happy the one who possesses it? This inestimable good is now possessed as soon as it is loved, that than which the possessor could desire no other. In surrendering to you freely therefore the goods of which you speak to me, I believe I am making an advantageous exchange, since in place of a momentary pleasure I come to acquire an eternity of delights." 105 (Text 27) 


To conclude, a curiosity in the musical field: in Scene X of the Third Act of the tragicomedy for music Don Quixote in Sierra Morena, set with notes by Francesco Conti, libretto by Apostolo Zeno and Pietro Pariati, performed in Vienna on 6 February 1719 at the Court Theater of Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor.


Don Quixote finds himself with other characters in front of a small theater where the love affairs of two lovers opposed by the Moors are depicted through cardboard figures. As the scenes change, we come to a campaign depicted with many squads of Moors on horseback. Don Quixote, who had become furious at seeing so many infidels in search of the unfortunate lovers, blinded with anger, took the stage and cut all the figures of the Moors to pieces, then boasting of this massacre carried out by a knight errant, as he considered himself. In witnessing such an action, the other characters burst into the following declaration:


“These are the skills

Of the Knights errant.

With bamboo and with figures,

They are bold, these warriors.

 And with similar adventures

They go on, sumptuous and haughty.” 106 (Text 28)


At this point the act ends with a “Ball of the Bagattelliere” (Ballo de’ Bagattelliere), to underline the character of Don Quixote, who boasted of being the master of the world when in reality he was only a bagato, a character of poor quality and therefore a small man of little account.


Remaining in the field of music, violinist and composer Nicola Matteis (c. 1670 - after 1713), who in some of his publications called himself Napolitano, should be credited, together with giants such as Corelli and Pasquini, with introducing the Italian style into England under the enlightened impulse of Henry Purcell. We owe to him a very famous dance composition, another “Ballo dei Bagatalliere,”extraordinary for its rhythmic and melodic aspect, creating in the listeners the vision of a celebration in the squares of the time.


With this work on the etymology and meaning of the word Bagatella, as well as on the attitude of the Church over time, 107 we are now able to understand more precisely the ethical-religious value which underlies the concept of the Mystical Staircase of the tarot. A teaching for humanity in those centuries, linked to the Ars Memoriae, to remember through a game of cards what sin was and how to avoid it by resorting to the teaching expressed by the symbols of this extraordinary triumphal procession. 108



Text 1 - Vasari: "Ma egli ebbe sempre l'animo alle baie e lavorò a capricci, di niuna cosa maggiormente curandosi che di vestire pomposamente, portando giuboni di brocato, cappe tutte fregiate di tela d'oro, cuffioni ricchissimi, collane, et altre simili bagatelle e cose da buffoni e cantanbanchi"

Text 2 - Fiorenzuola: “Io vidi in Siena, in su la piazza che e’ chiamano il Campo, un giocatore di bagatelle [circulator] a cavallo per ghiottornia di pochi quattrini inghiottirsi una spada appuntatissima, e cacciarsi in corpo uno spiedo porchereccio da quella parte ch’egli ha la punta”

Texts  3 -  Pulci “fece il tristo e il cagnaccio all’usanza, / E lasciossi cader come un ribaldo. / Guarda se sa ancor far la bagatella..."

Texts 4 - Pulci: "Pensa, lettor, che il traditor rassetti / Tutte sue bagatelle e sue bugie, / E mandragole e serpe e bossoletti / E polvere e cartocci e ciurmerie / Mostrassi, e tutti sciogliesse i sacchetti…”

Text 5 - Masuccio Salernitano: "mai da niuno ponito de quanti inganni e bagatelle avea adoperate tutto ‘l suo vivente”

Text 6 - Macchiavelli: "Nicomaco: Tu mi minacci di chiacchiere; fa’ ch’io non dica. Tu credi forse che io sia cieco e che io non conosca e’ giuochi di queste tua bagatelle? Io sapevo bene che le madre volevano bene a’ figliuoli, ma non credevo che le volessero tenere le mani alle loro disonestà".

Text 7 - Aretino: "Cappa. Tu sei molto allegro, Rosso, tu stai ridendo da ti stesso: che vuol dire? Rosso: Io mi rido d’una giuntaria, ch’è stato fatta tanto destra che non se ne sarebbe accorto il maestro de le bagatelle; e te la conterò più per agio"

Text 8 - Ariosto: "Volpino: Ma venga pur, venga a sua posta, che apparecchiata ho già la tasca da farli il più netto e il più bel giuoco di bagatelle ch’altro maestro giocasse mai"

Texts 9
A - Cecchi: “Vo’ sarete servito. Orsù a cominciar questo giuoco di bagatelle.”
B – Caro: “O tu di’ le bugie o la fortuna fa oggi le bagatelle con noi.” 
C - Della Porta: “E questi che fan le bagatelle, pur fan veder molte cose che non sono.”

Text 10 - Doni:  “Ghioro: Lieva Signore via de la Corte tua primamente, tutti gli adulatori; perche chi ama l’adulazione è nimico della verità. Scaccia i buffoni, bandisci i Cerretani, & i Maestri di Bagatella, conciosia che son tutti gente da beffe, & un Signore che sta sempre involto nelle cose leggieri, malvolentieri spedisce gravi negotij. Tutti i vagabondi, & gli instabili, sien sempre lontano da te; perche questi son nemici della virtù” 

Text 11 - Vettori: "Dopo mangiare, capitò nell’osteria uno ciurmatore e giucolatore di bagatelle et aveva gran seguito di gente. E, se bene parlava italiano, adoperava più le mani che la lingua, di sorte che ragunò, con questa sua articella, qualche somma di crazie. Quello facessi non dico, perché noi altri siamo tanto usi a vedere simil cose che scriverle saria superfluo. Nè avea in tutto finito di raccorre e’ danari  e rassettare le sue bagatelle, che sopraggiungono quivi forse didici famigli e con furia lo legorno e menoronlo”. L’oste spiegherà poi al Vettori che non era costume di “Alamagna” farsi portar via i danari “con questi modi.”

Text 12 - Berni: “Vale altrui l’orinal per tre scarselle / Et ha più ripostigli e più secreti / Che le bisacce delle bagattelle.”

Text 13 - Garzoni: Appartamento Prestigioso “Stanza Seconda – Sommario

“Si dimanda prestigio Demoniaco essercitato ò dal Demonio istesso, ò da magi operanti per virtù di quello, quando però à ciascun di questi sia permesso da Iddio: conciosiacosache gli Demoni per propria natura hanno una certa potestà sopra certe cose inferiori, la quale possono essercitare circa quello quando Iddio lo permette loro; per far, che quelle cose, che appaiono altrimente di quelle che sono. Et però dee sapersi, che in cinque modi può il Demonio prestigiare, overo illudere alcuno, et far si, che giudichi una cosa in altro modo di quello, ch’è in effetto.

“Il primo modo si fà con l'agitatione, ò trattatione artifitiosa, ... & questo lo può fare anco il Demonio, & molto meglio dell'huomo, potendo egli molto meglio dell'huomo saper le cose che per arte si fanno, e accommodarsi meglio à quelle.

“Il secondo modo si fa con l'applicatione, ò adhibitione, o interpositione d'alcun corpo, che s'interpone fra l'occhio, et la cosa veduta, come s'è detto nel dichiarar la seconda sorte di Prestigio, perche con queste cose tali meglio dell'huomo può illudere il Demonio conoscendole anco meglio di quello.


“Il terzo modo è, quando nel corpo assonto si mostra d'essere una cosa, quale non è; si come per esempio narra San Gregorio nel primo libro de' suoi Dialoghi di una Monaca, la quale mangiò una Lattuca, che invero (si come disse il Diavolo) non era Lattuca, ma si bene un Demonio in forma di lattuca, overo ch'egli era in quella lattuca; come anco apparse à Santo Antonio in forma d'una massa d'oro nel deserto, et come parimente fà, quando coprendo un vero huomo, lo fà apparere un'altro animale, et bestia. Et cotesta non è gran maraviglia (dice il Pico nella sua stria) perche se un corpo può ingannare gli sentimenti corporali, et fargli parere una cosa altrimenti di quello, che è, si come vediamo che fà il vetro, il qual imprime quel suo colore nell'occhio per cotal modo, che fa parere tutte l'altre cose simili à se nel colore, benche siano altrimente in se colorate; quanto maggiormente i spiriti ignudi da ogni corpo, cioè gli demoni potranno conturbare la fantasia, et ingannare gli occhi, et gli altri sentimenti delle creature inferiori? Et più di sopra dice il Pico, che pare, che i Demoni mutino una specie di un'animale in un altra; et non è vero, che cosi sia: Ma è ben vero, che cosi fà apparire, overo imprimendo dette specie, et figure finte nell'imaginatione, e fantasia, overo mettendo avanti gli occhi corporali un'altra spetie finta, et figura.


“Il quarto modo è, quando ei turba l'organo visivo facendoli apparire una cosa per un'altra: verbi gratia una cosa oscura, facendola apparire chiara, da un'altra chiara facendola apparere nubilosa. Il che può anco procedere per via naturale, come per isperienze si vede in quelli, che piangono, che dopo il pianto per gli humori ivi congregati alle volte la luce gli appare altramente di quello, che pareva per innanzi, et fregandosi li occhi dopo il fregare si vedono le cose in altro modo, che per innanzi non si vedevano: col qual modo, e Demoniacamente, et naturalmente una vecchia appare all'occhio altrui talvolta giovane; si come à Fulgentio Lionello, parte per la fantasia corrotta intorno alle donne, parte per l'organo del viso ordinariamente conturbato, successe un giorno, che un cataletto da morti apparato, gli parve che fosse una Gentildonna distesa in Chiesa v'accorse per aiutarla à levare in piedi con grandissimo riso di alcuni circostanti.


“Il Quinto modo è quando il Demonio opera nella nostra potenza imaginativa, & questo fa con la commotione degli humori transmutando le specie sensibili, accioche nelle potentie sensitive si causino quasi fresche, et nuove apparitioni; come sarebbe verbi gratia (dicono il Spranger, et l'Institore nella parte seconda alla questione prima) quando quelle cose, che sono ignee, overo aquatiche facesse apparire terrestri, overo secche . . .”


Text 14 – Garzoni: "Ma ci è una certa sorte di spettacol moderno trovato da varie specie di ceretani, del qual inten­do, per curiosità del mondo, ... particolarmente ragionare. I ceretani dunque... fra la vilissima plebe s'hanno acquistato ormai credito tale che molto maggior concorso con più lieto applauso si fa loro ch'agli eccellenti oratori del verbo divino e agli onorati catedranti delle scienze e arti ingenue, di piccola corona rispetto a loro circondati intorno. Fu di questa professione qualche memoria an­cora presso agli antichi, essendo che i bagatellieri, latinamente detti gesticolatores, e, secondo i Greci, chironomi, ottennero qualche nome fra loro, dando piacere con le bagatelle efrascherie… Ma a' tempi nostri, il numero e le specie di co­storo son cresciute a guisa della mal'erba, in modo che per ogni città, per ogni terra, per ogni piazza non si vede altro che ceretani o cantinbanchi, che più pre­sto mangiaguadagni puon dimandarsi che altramente. E tutti con vane arti e in­ganni illudono le menti del popolazzo, e allettano l'orecchia a sentir le frottole raccontate da loro, gli occhi a veder le bagatelle, i sensi tutti a stare attenti alle prove ridicolose che in piazza fanno...”

Text 15 -  Cafasso: “Giovani, e figlie, che m’ascoltate, voi sentirete soventi a dire nel mondo che quelle facezie, que’ peccati sono un niente, sono bagatelle; che non è vero sieno peccati così grandi, che Dio mandi all’Inferno per questo che li castighi poi tanto; sentite: guardatevi bene da queste lingue, lasciate dire, lasciate fare, voi state fermi a ciò, che la fede vi dice. Essere queste cose il più gran male, e condurre all’inferno tante anime disgraziate: si sente purtroppo sulla bocca di tanti, che la legge di non mangiar carne Venerdì e Sabbato è una minchioneria, un impostura, un capriccio degli uomini, e nessun uomo avere questo diritto; si sente di più che non v’è bisogno d’andarsi a confessare, potersi salvare senza la Confessione, essere un peso messo dalla Chiesa, e non da Dio: falso miei cari, falso: la fede ci obbliga a credere che i Sacramenti e fra questi la Confessione, furono da Dio istituiti; la fede ci obbliga a credere, e professare, che la Chiesa, fu fondata da Dio, aver ricevuto da lui medesimo tutta quella autorità, che vuole ed esigge il bene delle anime. O credere tutte queste verità, o rinunziare al battesimo, rinunziare al nome, ed al carattere di cristiani.”

Text 16 - Margotti: “Quanto alla questione del pane, che comprende tutte le questioni di agiatezza, e di bella e buona vita, questa si cura a tutto uomo. Quanto a quella, che riflette l'onore di Dio, e il progresso morale del cittadino, si reputa una bagatella.”

Text 17 - Zanetti: ”Eccolo quindi sotto il peso di que’ peccati che si credon da noi bagatelle dappoco, fragilità di natura, convenienze di mondo, dal peso di questi peccati aggravato cade Gesù Cristo, cade boccone a terra, l’allegrezza del Cielo si attrista, la gloria degli Angeli rendesi mesta, assalito l’autor della vita dall’orrore di morte: tristis, trìstìs est anima mea usque ad mortem.


Text 18 - Costantini: “E' un grande inganno il nostro, e pur troppo comune alla maggior parte delle Donne, e credo anche degli Uomini, il credere di soddisfare ai doveri di Religione con bagatelle, che niuna violenza ci costano. Credere di poter accarezzare le nostre passioni, ed essere amici di Dio. Aver cuore di Lupo, ed aver sopravveste di Agnello. No, nò; non c' inganniamo, amica dilettissima; bisogna prima purgare l'interno, e vincere quelle inclinazioni, che ci rendono nemici di Dio. Ma nudrire un cuor nero, ed avere la veste candida, sarà sempre il colorito del tradimento.”

Text 19 - Paciuchelli: “E gran vituperio de gl’ huomini, che essi vestano vanamente, e s’adornino quasi che fossero donne… A questi giorni passati si è veduto un tale, che trovandosi in chiesa, overa molta gente, alla presenza di tutti, trasse uno specchietto dal cinto del suo cappello, molto artifiziosamente accomodatovi, e rimirandosi in esso, si acconciò il collare, i capelli, e la barba. Non finirebbe mai chi volesse discendere a’ particolari, e descriver le tante lor bagatelle, e pazzie.” 

Text 20 - Fedele of San Filippo: “Non può esser giammai piccolo colui, che attende all’acquisto di cose grandi. Mentre l’uomo è piccolo, per l’acquisto di cose piccole, d’un pomo, d’una vesticciola, o di simile bagatella, s’affatica."

Text 21 - Leti: “Dagli Huomini più savii io hò sempre inteso dire, che per rimediare à questo inconveniente, converrebbe sgravare i Ministri di quel peso di tante Prediche inutili che si fanno al vento, o pure a’ banchi delle Chiese, e raccommandarli un poco meglio la cura Pastorale, nella visita degli Infermi, e nel mantenere la buona unione tra le Famiglie, poiché ardisco dire con mio rossore, che gli Huomini più libertini, non che quelli più dabene si scandalizzano nel vedere in Geneva tante distintioni, tante discordie, e tante nemicitie tra Padre, e Figlio, tra Marito, e Moglie, e tra prossimi parenti, senza che alcuno Ministro si mescoli a pacificarli con carità Christiana, prima d'àndare per bagatelle nella giustitia; gli ordini della Chiesa son'ottimi in questo, se fossero ben' osservati, & eseguiti.”

Text 22 - Francesco da Sestri: "Mà, passando dalla lettera allo spirito, con molta ragione si celebrava con feste, con musiche, e conviti il giorno, che si spoppavano i putti; perché misticamente figurava quello, in cui i fanciulli cominciavano non semplicemente a vivere, ma à ben vivere: in cui lasciano d’essere pargoletti bisognosi di latte, e principiano ad essere huomini, che si nodriscono d’alimento più sostentioso, per crescere nella virtù: in cui, usciti dalle fasce, dalle minutie, e bagatelle terrene, s’introducono ad investigare, à cercare, & à dimandare beni celesti, & eterni: in cui, staccati dalle poppe del mondo, e dalle lusinghe della carne, sospirano, ed aspirano a’ diletti, e contenti di Paradiso, che realmente gustano alla mensa del Padre Eterno preparata nel Sacramento Eucharistico, che propone loro il vitello saginato, che ingrassa l’anime, e le impingua di gratia; perché à suo tempo siano partecipi della gloria.”


Text 23 - Lorenco de Zamora: "Delli attributi della Divina Essenza. Sono certi Dearelli fatti al gusto di ciascuno, figuruccie, & bagatelle senza spirito, e senza vita, & pvavoluccie simili a quelle che tal’hora, mentre lavorano in casa delle loro Maestre, sogliono fare le fanciulle. Et anco in questo se le attribuisce troppo honore, perché le pvavoluccie, & figurine rappresentano pure qualche cosa, ò una gratiosa sposa, ò un giovane lascivo, overo altre somiglianti cose. Ma gl’ Idoli sono un niente, una vanità, e chimera, che dentro all’intelletto l’huomo forma. Dio è uno solo, e singolarissimo, che habita in se medesimo, & non come credono alcuni, in un luogo fuora dell’universo; è tutto in se medesimo, è tutto in tutte le parti intiero, considerando, & ordinando le generazioni delle cose. Un Dio solo habbiamo, & tutto il resto è burla. Nil est in mundo. Bagatele & frascherie sono gl’Idoli adorati dalla Gentilità per Dei."


Text 24 - The Holy Inquisition of Venice:

, che dica quello che sa intorno alla partenza di monsignor Marco Antonio de Dominis suo precessore, et circa il manifesto o consiglio stampato da esso, et del quale già si è havuto notitia in questo santo tribunale.

“Respondit: Io conosco benissimo, che detta lettera è scritta et sottoscritta di sua propria mano di esso monsignor de Dominis già arcivescovo di Spalato, perchè ho pratica della sua mano, havendo havuto molte altre sue lettere mentre io era a Roma.

“Interrogatus, che dica, che cosa habbia inteso dal fratello di quel, che ha detto di sopra circa il suo viaggio et pensieri.

“Respondit: scoprii, che il suo viaggio era verso Ingilterra con pensiero di publicar nova dotrina e discrepante da quella, che tiene la chiesa catholica, come mio fratello dirà più pienamente.

“Interrogatus: se detto monsignor per viaggio o in altro loco gli habbia significato la causa, per la quale andava in Inghilterra.

“Respondit: disse, che andava per accomodar alcune bagatelle in materia della religione et fede, cioè che quelli de Inghilterra da noi sono tenuti per persi, et lui voleva unirli con noi altri con poca cosa, dicendo, che facilissimamente haerebbe fatto."

Text 25 - Inquisitionis Acta contra PP. Fratres Thoman Campanellam

Primo processo fatto da fra Marco da Marcianise e fra Cornelio di Nizza in Monteleone.  “Atti institutivi del processo co’ capi d’accusa; 1 settembre 1599” (Inquisitionis Acta contra PP. Fratres Thoman Campanellam, Dionisium de Neocastro, Johann Baptistam de Pizzone et alios Inquisitos)

Esame di Cesare Pisano, clerico, 19 ottobre

(Domanda sul Campanella) “Interrogatus…disse ancora . . .  che il sacramento dell’altare è una bagatella di adorare et che è niente, et una follia a crederlo . . .”    

Esame di Gio. Tommaso Caccia, clerico, fuoruscito,19 ottobre

(Domanda su Frate Dioniso) “Interrogatus… respondit: Padre, vi dico la verità, dal Pontio io non intesi salvo che una heresia, che stando a Pizzoni insieme nel dormitorio et havendo io sentito sonar le campane a messa gli dissi, Fra Dionisio, io voglio andare a messa, et egli all’hora mi disse che messa, burlandosi del sacrificio santo, et soggionse che erano giocherelle, et essendo io scandalizzato et dicendo Tu che sei monach dovresti mostrarmi devotione et dici che la messa è cosa giocarella, et a questo esso soggionse, o chiotto questa è una bagatella, et io allora me ne calai a basso a sentire la messa che disse Fra Silvestro, et lui si partì via senza venire a messa.”

Text 26 - Summarium Processus contra Fratrem Thoman Campanellam: “respondit dove dice quod Santissimus Sacramentus eucharestiae erat solum pro ratione status, dico che fra Cornelio scrisse ch’io l’avessi detto et non dissi tal cosa ne sò che voglia dire ragione di stato, ne tampoco hò inteso dal Campanella che questo sacramento fusse una bagatella, et che fusse pazzia credere che in esso fusse il Corpo di Christo: ma disse circa il sacramento erano alcune superstizioni et altre parole che mi parvero cattive, mà non so che lui apertamente negasse nell’hostia consacrata ci fusse il corpo di Christo . . . ”

Text 27 - San Vittore (Italian translation from Latin): “Ma come potrò io essere condannato, perché preferisco ai beni presenti, e temporali, gli eterni? Non sarei un insensato, se facessi più conto di queste bagatelle [termine tradotto dal latino], che de' beni dell'altra vita, i quali sono di un infinito valore? Il favore de' principi, i piaceri, gli onori, la gloria, la sanità, la vita medesima, che altro sono alla fine, se non beni che nè si possono sempre avere, quando si vogliono, nè si possono godere lungo tempo, ed il cui possesso viene di continuo amareggiato dal timore di perderli? Non sarà dunque giusta e lodevol cosa preferire al godimento di qualsivoglia cosa terrena la vita eterna, e la grazia di chi ha creato il tutto, e rende perfettamente felici quelli, che la posseggono?Ora questo bene inestimabile si possiede tosto chè si ama, e chi lo possiede non ha più che desiderare. Nel cedervi pertanto liberamente i beni di cui voi mi parlate, io credo di far un cambio assai vantaggioso, poichè in luogo di un piacere momentaneo vengo ad acquistare una eternità di delizie.”



Ghino Ghinassi, Un dubbio lessicale di Baldassarre Castiglione,” in Paolo Bongrani (ed.), Dal Belcalzer al Castiglione: Studi sull’antico volgare di Mantova e sul Castiglione, Vol. 5 of Biblioteca Mantovana, L. S. Olschki, 2006, p. 268.

2.  Gabbatella derives from gabbare, meaning to deceive with fraud, from which gabbato is said of the person deceived. Regarding the term gabbatella, see Entry Gab,  Gabbatelle as Bagatelle: foolish and apish trinkets, in A Worlde of Wordes, or Most copious, and exact Dictionaire in Italian and English, collected by John Florio. London, Arnold Hatfield for Edw. Blount, 1598, p. 42.

3. a - Ottorino Pianigiani, Vocabolario Etimologico della Lingua Italiana. This dictionary,  of which its 1st ed. was printed 1993, is online at link

b - Fra’ Vincenzo Coronelli, Biblioteca Universale Sacro-Profana - Antico-Moderna, Vol. 5, Venice,, Antonio Tivani, M.D.CCIV [1704], p. 75. 

c - Entry Bagattella in Egidio Menagio, Le Origini della Lingua Italiana. Geneva, Giovanni Antonio Chouët, MDCLXXXV [1685], p. 80.

d - Dissertazioni sopra le Antichità Italiane. Già composte e pubblicate in latino dal Proposto Ludovico Antonio Muratori e da esso poscia compendiate e trasportate nell’Italiana Favella. Opera Postuma. Data in luce dal proposto Gian-Francesco Soli Muratori suo nipote, Tomo Secondo, Milan, Giambatista Pasquali, MDCCLI [1751], pp. 171-172.

4. Entry Bagatella in Pianigiani, Vocabolario (see here n. 3a). It must be said that the coin called the bagattino was already present towards the middle of the fourteenth century. It is mentioned in Novella IX of the Eighth Day by Boccaccio in the Decameron: “In fè di Dio, i’ ho roba che costò, contata ogni cosa, delle lire presso a cento di bagattini” (By the Faith in God, I have stuff that cost in all some lire amounting to close to a hundred bagattini). Vittore Branca, who edited a critical edition of the text, writes in this regard as follows: "about 100 lire of bagattini: this is how the petioles… or denari… were called in Venice and in general in northern Italy. The expression is therefore equivalent to a small amount of lire" (Vittore Branca [ed.], Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameron (Critical Ed.), Vol. 2, Turin, Einaudi, 2014, p. 994). In our opinion, given that the bagattino was a universally known coin of little value, it is very probable that it gave the inspiration for the creation of the term Bagatella, both sharing the same etymology.

5. Glossarivm manvale ad scriptores mediae et infimae latinitatis ex magnis glossariis Caroli du Fresne, Domini du Change et Carpentarii, Vol. 1, Halae, Io. Iust. Gebaveri Vidvam et Filivm, 1772, p. 521.

6. Muratori, Dissertazioni, vol. 2 (see here n. 3d), pp. 171-172.

7. Ludovico Antonio Muratorio [Muratori], Antiquitates Italicæ Medii Ævi sive Dissertationes de Moribus, Ritibus, Religione, Regimine, etc, vol. 2, Milan, Ex Typographia Societatis, Palatinæ, 1739, col. 1142.

8. Muratori, Dissertazioni, vol. 2 (see here n. 3d), p. 171: "Se a me si chiede l’origine di questa voce, rispondo di nulla aver trovato di certo, e poter io solamente esibire una conjettura. Ha la lingua Arabica Bakatta, che accomodato nella nostra Lingua diviene Bagattare. Significa esso, per attestato del Gollio, Festinare in sermone, vel in incessu. I Modenesi dicono Abbagattare, ciò che i Fiorentini chiamano Acciabattare. Un’altro [sic] simile verbo hanno essi Arabi, cioè Bagata, con un solo T significante Miscere, Confundere negotium, cibum, sermonem suumCorripere, Monere verbis, Rem disgregare, eamdemque colligere. Non è inverosimile, che gl’Italiani dalla gente Araba, o sia dai Saraceni, che una volta dominarono in Sicilia e Calabria, e gran traffico faceano per varj nostri paesi, imparassero Bagattare, come ne hanno imparato tant’altre parole; e chiamassero le cose da nulla, e le furberie, e i giuochi de’ Cantambanchi, Bagatelle." 

9.  Entry Bagattare in Enrico Galavotti, Grammatica e Scrittura. Dalle astrazioni dei manuali scolastici alla scrittura creativa, 2nd ed., Homolaicus, p. 220.

10. Entry Ciabattino in Aldo Gabrielli, Grande Dizionario Italiano, Milano, Hoepli, 2011.

11. The Bagatto was depicted as a cobbler in some Lombard and Piedmontese tarots (Dotti, Strambo, etc.), while in the so-called Mantegna Tarot we find a craftsman (Artixan). In every case, he is to be understood as a personage who performs a job with a low social profile. Regarding the Bagato as a cobbler, see in the entry Bah! sub-entry Bagatto: "denomination of a card in the game of tarot, that is, of that of the tarot which is inferior to any other and was represented by a cobbler", in G. B. Bolza, Vocabolario genetico-Etimologico della Lingua Italiana, Vienna, I. R. Stamperia di Corte e di Stato, 1852, p. 92.

12. Padre Sforza Pallavicino, Dell’Historia del Concilio di Trento, 2nd Part, Book IX (year of reference 1547), Rome, Biagio Diversin and Felice Cesaretti, Librari all’Insegna della Regina, 1664, p. 62.

13. Vittorio Siri, Del Mercurio, overo Historia de Correnti Tempi, 1635-1655, Seguitamento del Settimo Tomo, Casale, Giorgio del Monte, s.d., p. 1258.

14. Prediche fatte nel Palazzo Apostolico dal Padre Luigi Albrizio della Compagnia di Gesù, 2nd Parte Predica (Sermon) LXXVI, “Nel Martedì Santo della Passione, &c.” Venice, Heredi di Francesco Baba, 1663, p. 76. 

15. Venice, Gabriel Giolito De Ferrari, et Fratelli, 1547, p. 22.

16. Antonio Lanza (ed.), Lirici Toscani del Quattrocento, Vol. 2, Rome, Bulzoni, 1975, p. 92. All the verses are filled with moral admonitions about city government.

17. Ibid., p. 91.

18. Alessandro Parenti, Gherminella e Bagattella, in “Lingua Nostra59, Fasc. 3-4 (Sept. - Dec. 2008), p. 65.

19. Miguel de Cervantes, El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijotte de la Mancha, Frankfurt am Main, Outlook Verlag, 2022, p. 694. Transcription of the original of 1605.

20. Parenti, Gherminella (see here n. 18), p. 74. The author cites R. Andreoli, Vocabolario napoletano-italiano, Napoli, Berisio, 1966 (1st ed. 1887), p. 54.

21. Ibid., p. 74.

22. Ibid., n. 68. Parenti refers to V. Valente, recension to S. Gentile, “Repatriare Masuccio al suo lassato nido,”  in "Lingua Nostra" 43, 1982, p. 29; and by the same author, “Per una migliore intelligenza del napoletano di G. Basile,” Lingua Nostra 40, 1979, p. 46.

23. Viaggi di Pietro della Valle Il Pellegrino, Con minuto ragguaglio di tutte le cose notabili osservate in essi, Descritti da lui medesimo in 54. Lettere familiari..., Divisi in trè Parti. Cioè, La Turchia, La Persia, et l’India, Co’l ritorno in Patria, Venice, Paolo Baglioni, MDCLXVII. [1667], pp. 67-68.

24. Tutti i Trionfi, Carri, Mascheaate ò canti Carnascialeschi andati per Firenze, dal tempo del Magnifico Lorenzo vecchio de Medici; quando egli hebbero prima cominciamento, per infino à questo anno presente 1559..., Florence, s.s. [Lorenzo Torrentino], MDLVIIII [1559], p. 254.

25. Mondi celesti, Terrestri, Et Infernali, de gli Academici Pellegrini. Composti dal Doni; Mondo Piccolo, Grande, Misto, Risibile, Imaginato, de Pazzi, & Massimo, Inferno, de gli Scolari, de Mal maritati, delle Puttane, & de Ruffiani, Soldati, & Capitani poltroni, Dottor cattivi, Legisti, Artisti, de gli Usurai, de Poeti & Compositori ignoranti. Venice, Domenico Farri, MDLXVII [1567], p. 91.

26a. Lanzi: Parenti, Gherminella (see here n. 18), p. 67, n. 18: “Il testo, la cui lingua scimmiotta l'italiano storpiato dai Tedeschi, si può parafrasare come segue: “Il Tedesco gioca abilmente col fraccurrado e con le bagattelle, che l'è fuori, che l'è dentro, è un bel gioco, la gherminella.”

26b. Germinelle: Ibid.p. 70: "il proponente piega la corda... e la avvolge formando due anse..., lo scommettitore infila il bastoncino (o eventualmente il dito) in una delle anse e deve indovinare se, tirando la corda, questo rimarrà libero o impigliato."

27a. Ibid., p. 74.

27b. Le poesie spirituali del B. Iacopone da Todi frate minore... con le scolie, et annotazioni di Fra Francesco Tresatti, Venice, Nicolò Misserini, 1617, p. 5.

28. Parenti, Gherminella (see here n. 18), p. 75, n. 75. The author attributes this interpretation to Roberta Manetti.

29. Ibid., n. 76. The manuscript was checked by Parenti himself. Originally published as Lettera settima del Padre Sorio a Pietro Fanfani, in “L'Etruria”, 1, 1851, p. 685. Verona catalog no. CCCCLXIV. This paraphrase by Parenti attributed to Roberta Manetti: “Lascio la sorte traditrice agitare la sua marionetta... (Let traitorous fate agitate its marionette...).

30. Ibid., n. 76.  Biblioteca Nazionale di Firenze, Palatino XCVIII, c. 51v.

31. See our historical essay Il significato di Tarocco in Andrea Moniglia – 1660 (currently in Italian only).

32. Laude de lo contemplatiuo & extatico b. f. Jacopone de lo ordine de lo seraphico S. Francesco: devote & utele a consolatione de le persone devote e spirituale: & per predicatori proficue ad ogni materia: Elquale ne lo seculo fo doctore e gentile homo chiamato misser Iacopone de Benedictis da Todi: benche ala religione se volse dare ad ogni humilita e simplicita. Venice, Bernardinum Benalium Bergomenses, 1514, f. 1v.

33. Parenti, Gherminella (see here n. 18), p. 76.

34. The text is reported in F. Pirot, Recherches sur le connaissances littéraries des troubadours occitans et catalans des XII° et XIII° siècles, Barcelona, Real Academia de buenas letras, 1972, p. 565 (ll.19-24).

35. Parenti, Gherminella (see here n. 18), p. 75.

36. Teofilo Folengo, Chaos del Tri Per Uno, Venice, Giovanni Antonio et Fratelli da Sabbio. At the instance of Nicolo Garanta, MDXXVII. [1527], s.n.p.

37. Entry Bagatto, in Accademia della Crusca, Grande Dizionario della Lingua Italiana, Prototipo edizione digitale, Turin, UTET, 2018, online at

38. Thierry Depaulis, Early Italian Lists of Tarot Trumps, in The Playing Card 36, no. 1 (July-Se[t/ 2007), p. 42. The strambotto is a particular type of song.

39. See our historical essay Un topolino bagatello - 1596 (currently in Italian only).

40. Giorgio Vasari, Delle Vite de’ più Eccellenti Pittori Scultori et Architettori Scritte da M. Giorgio Vasari Pittore et Architetto Aretino, Secondo, et ultimo Volume della Terza Parte Dall’anno 1550 al 1567..., Florence, i Giunti, 1568, p. 530.

41. Erasmi Rot. [Erasmus of Rotterdam], Operum, Quartus Tomus, Quae ad Morum Institutionem Pertinent Complectens, quorum catalogum versa pagina docet, Basileae [Basel], Ex Officina Frobeniana [Frobenius], Anno MDXL [1540], p. 366.

42.  A. Fiorenzuola, ed. Adriono Seroni, Opere, Florence, Sansoni, 1971, p. 185. The expression “a cavallo” (on horseback) is an error by Fiorenzuola, inasmuch as Apuleius’s equestrem indicates a cavalry sword (spatham praecutam).

43. XXIV 126, 8-127, 2.

44. XXV 112, 1-5.

45. See the edition by Giorgio Petrocchi, Florence, 1957, p. 197.

46. Clizia. Commedia di M. Nicolo Macchiavelli Fiorentino, Florence, s.s., MDXLVIII [1548], n.p.

47. Angelo Romano (ed.), Pietro Aretino. La Cortigiana e altre Opere. Milan, BUR Classici Rizzoli, 1999, n.p.

48. Ludovico Ariosto, La Cassaria, Comedia, Act IV, Scene II, Venice, Gabriel Giolito de Ferrari, MDXLVI [1546], f. 33r.

49. Nino Borsellino (ed.), Commedie del Cinquecento. I. Milan, 1962, p. 158; II, 1967, pp. 253, 472.

50. Codice Vaticano Latino 8204. [Translator’s note: As translated by Charles S. Singleton (New York: Doubleday, 1959), the selection is in Book I, Section 22, p. 39: “such things as vaulting on the ground, rope-walking, and the like, which smack of the juggler’s trade and little befit a gentleman.” A 1561 translation by Sir Thomas Hoby (London: D. Nutt, introduction by Walter Raleigh), p. 55, has “tumbling, clymbyng upon a corde, and suche other matters that taste somewhat of  jugglers crafte, and doe lytle beseeme a Gentleman.”  Both online in

51. See Ghinassi, Un dubbio lessicale (see here n. 1), pp. 267-268.

52. Il Cortegiano del Conte Baldesar Castiglione. Annotato e Illustrato da Vittorio Cian. Florence, G.C. Sansoni, 1894, p. 50.

53. Arrigo Castellani, Grammatica storica della lingua italiana I, Introduzione, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2000, p. 120.

54. Ghinassi, Un dubbio lessicale (see here n. 1), p. 273. For the Novellino, see the edition edited by A. Conte, Rome, 2001, p. 76.

55. This work is cited, among others, by Leber and reported in William Andrew Chatto, Facts and Speculations on the Origin and History of Playing Cards, London, John Russell Smith, 1848, p. 117. Another text that contains the explanation of Renaissance sleight of hand, even if the topic occupies a small part of the entire volume (22 pages out of 283), is Reginald Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft in its Dover Publications reprint, first ed. 1584. We thank Valery Russo for having kindly informed us of the existence of this text.

56. Isacco della Stella, I Sermoni, Vol. 1: Dalla Settuagesima alla Pentecoste, Sermone 32. Sermone Terzo per la prima domenica di Quaresima, Rome, Paoline, 2006, p. 249.

57. I Marmi del Doni, Academico Peregrino, Ragionamento Secondo [Second Argument], Venice, Francesco Marcolini, MDLII. [1552], p. 35.

58. Enrico Niccolini (ed.), Francesco Vettori. Scritti storici e politici, Bari, Laterza, 1972, p. 47.

59. Ghinassi, Un dubbio lessicale (see here n. 1), p. 271.

60. Ortografia delle Voci della Lingua Nostra overo Dittionario Volgare et Latino di M. Francesco Sansovino, Venice, F. Sansovino, MDLXVIII [1568], Lettere B C, s.n.p.

61. See Sancti Agobardi episcopi Lugdunensis, Liber contra insulsam vulgi opinionem de grandine et tonitruis, in “Patrologiae Cursus Completum”, Series II, Tomus CIV, Paris, Migne, 1851, pp. 147-148. Cited in Nicola Cariello, Stato e Chiesa nel regno d’Italia al tempo di Ludovico II (844-875), Rome, Scienze e Lettere, 2011, pp. 31-32.

62. De i Vitj, e de i Difetti del Moderno Teatro e del Modo di Correggergli, e d’Emendarli. Ragionamenti VI di Laurisio Tragiense Pastore Arcade. Rome, Stamperia di Pallade, MDCCLIII [1758]. Alcuin in letter 107 to “Antonius,” a name ascribed to Adelard, Abbot of Corby; see note a, p. 172.

63. Silvano Cola (ed.), Salviano di Marsiglia. Il Governo di Dio, Rome, Città Nuova, 1994, pp. 23-26 and pp. 187-189.

64. Raffaele de Ritis, Illusionismi: settemila anni di teatro, scienza e religione, Viterbo, Stampa Alternativa Nuovi Equilibri, 2004, p. 194: “Un uomo che frequenta i giocolieri avrà presto una sposa di nome Povertà. Se accade che i trucchi dei prestigiatori colpiscano la vostra attenzione abituatevi ad evitarli e fuorviatene il pensiero. I trucchi dei prestigiatori non piacciono mai a Dio.” 

65.  Joannis Saresberiensis, Opera Omnia..., vol. III. Policratici Libri 1.-V., Oxford, J. H. Parker, 1848, p. 229.

66. Franco Cardini (ed. and trans.), Bernardo di ClairvauxIl libro della nuova cavalleria, De laude novae militiae. Milan, Biblioteca di via Senato, 2004, p. 169.

67. Jacques le Goff, Mestieri leciti e mestieri illeciti, in “Tempo della Chiesa, Tempo del Mercante, Turin, Einaudi, 1997, pp. 58-59.

68. Ibid., n. 22, p. 59.

69. See Anton Emanuel Schönbach, Studien zur Geschichte des altdeutschen Predigt, in “Sitzungen und Berichte der philologisch-historischen Klasse der kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften”, 1907, Vol. 154, p. 44.

70. Work published posthumously in 1478, original in Latin, trans. online at site “Ecclesia Dei. Cattolici, Apostolici, Romani" “Noi inoltre esercitiamo il comando sugli stessi maghi e sui prestigiatori simili ad essi.”

71. Il Serraglio De gli Stupori del Mondo, di Tomaso Garzoni da Bagnacavallo. Diviso in Diece Appartamenti, secondo gli vari, et ammirabili oggetti..., Venice, Ambrosio and Bartolomeo Dei, Fratelli, MDCXIII [1613], pp. 231-233.

72. La Piazza Universale..., Venice, Vincenzo Somasco, M.D.XCV [1595], p. 742.

73. Dissertazione Terza sopra l’Istoria Ecclesiastica di Padova Opera di Francesco Dondi Dall’Orologio Vescovo di Trimiti ecc., Padua, Presso il Seminario, M.DCCC.VII. [1807], pp. 29-30.

74. We formulated the concept of the Mystical Staircase of the Tarot in 1987 on the occasion of the exposition Le Carte di Corte. I Tarocchi, Gioco e Magia alla Corte degli Estensi, as part of our historical-scientific project.

75. See our historical essay The History of the Tarot.

76. The Sermo perutilis de ludo, on which see our historical essay The Mystical Staircase in the Sermo Perutilis de Ludo.” This is the order: 1 El bagatella - Imperatrix - 3 Imperator - 4 La papessa - 5 El papa - 6 La temperantia - 7 L'amore - 8 Lo caro triumphale - 9 La fortezza - 10 La rotta - 11 El gobbo - 12 Lo imphicato - 13 La morte - 14 El diavolo - 15 La sagitta - 16 La stella - 17 La luna - 18 El sole - 19 Lo angelo - 20 - La iusticia - 21 El mondo - 22 El matto   

77. For further information, see our iconological essay The Madman (the Fool) and our historical essay on the Sermo of n. 76.

78. François Louis Gauthier, Traité contre l’amour des parures et de luxe des habits, 2nd ed. Paris, Augustin-Martin Lottin, 1780.

79. François Louis Gauthier, Traité contre les danses et le mauvaises chansons, Paris, Antoine Boudet, 1769.

80. In Mélanges de Politique, de Morale et de Littérature, extraits des Journaux de M. L’Abbé de Feller, Vol. 1. Louvain, Vanlinthout et Vandenzande, 1822, p. 307.

81. Histoire de la Vertueuse Portugaise; ou le modèle des femmes chrétiennes. Par Mr. L’abbé Maydieu, chanoine de l’église de Troyes, en Champagne. Paris, Charles-Pierre Berton, 1779.

82. L’Abbé de Feller, Mélanges de Politique, (see here n. 80), p. 216.

83. See our iconological essay The Madman (Fool).

84. Renzo Svarino (ed.), Giuseppe Cafasso. Predicazione varia al popolo - Istruzioni e Discorsi. Cantalupa, Effettà Editrice, 2005, pp. 357-358.

85. Giacomo Margotti, Alcune considerazioni intorno la separazione dello Stato dalla Chiesa in Piemonte, Turin, Tipografia Diretta da Paolo Dagostini, 1855, p. 95.

86. Marino da Cadore, Panegirici. Discorsi Morali e Prediche Quaresimali, Vol. 5 Quinto. Venice, Francesco Andreola, 1838, p. 174.

87. Lettere Critiche. Giocose, Morali, Scientifiche ed Erudite del Conte Agostino Santo Pupieni o sia dell’Avvocato Giusepp-Antonio Costantini, Vol. 5, Paragraph ‘Nobiltà, Sapere e Virtù.’ Venice Giuseppe Zorzi, MDCCLXXX. [1780], p. 18.

88. Lezioni Morali sopra Giona Profeta del Padre Maestro F. Angelo Paciuchelli da Montepulciano, dell’Ordine de’ Predicatori... Vol. 3, Venice, Paolo Baglioni, MDCLXIV. [1654], p. 93.

89. Sacri Panegirici de Santide Quali Santa Chiesa Con solennità maggiore celebra per tutto l’anno la Festa. Del Padre Maestro F. Benedetto Fedele di San Filippo..., Venice, i Giunti, MDCXL. [1640], p. 156. 

90. Historia Genevrina o sia Historia della Città, e Republica di Geneva Cominciando dalla sua prima fondattione fino al presente... Scritta da Gregorio Leti, Part 3, Amsterdam, Pietro & Abramo von Someren, MDCLXXXVI. [1686], p. 521.

91. Parte Seconda de Ragionamenti a Novitiidi Fra Francesco da Sestri..., Genoa, Anton Giorgio Franchelli, MDCLXXXV. [1685], p. 5.

92. Monarchia Mistica della ChiesaComposta de Gieroglifici tratti dalle Divine, & Humane lettereDel R.P.M.D. Lorenzo de Zamora, Monaco Cisterciense..., Parte Prima, Tradotta nuovamente dall’Idioma Spagnuolo nell’Italiano da Pietro Foscarini, Venice, Andrea Baba, 1619, pp. 79-80. Original title of the first ed.: Monarquia mistica de la iglesia, hecha de hieroglificos sacados de humanas y divinas letras. Madrid, 1617.

93. StarineNa Sviet Izdaje Jugoslavenska Akademija Znanosti I Umjetnosti, Knjga II. Zagreb, 1870, pp. 152-155.

94. Luigi Amabile, Fra Tommaso Campanella. La sua congiura, i suoi processi e la sua pazzia, Vol. 3, Naples, Cav. Antonio Morano, Ed., 1882, p. 194.

95. Ibid., p. 241.

96. Ibid., p. 245.

97. Ibid., p. 431.

98. See Matteo al Kalak, Storia della Chiesa di Modena. Dal medioevo all’età contemporanea. Profili di vescovi modenesi dal IX al XVIII secolo, Modena, Poligrafico Mucchi, 2006, p. 284.

99a. Francesco Rognoni ed., Tommaso Moro. Lettere, Scelte, trans. with commentary by Alberto Castelli, Milan, V&P (Vita e Pensiero), 2008, p. 121.

99b. St. Thomas More, Selected Letters, trans. Elizabeth Frances Rogers, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1961, p. 32.

99c. Rognoni, ed., Thomaso Moro (see here n. 99a), p. 121.

100. Thomæ Mori, Dissertatio Epistolica..., Ad Martinum Dorpium Theologum Lovaniensem. Lugduni Batavorum [the Dutch in Lyon], Johannes Sambix, MDCLIV [1654], pp. 55-56.

101. Colloque entre sept scavans qui sont de differens sentimens des secrets cachez, des choses relevées, traduction anonyme du « Colloquium heptaplomeres de Jean Bodin » ms. français 1923 de la Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris, ed. François Berriot, Jacques Roger, Jean Larmat, Katharine Davies. Geneva, Libraire Droz, 1984. Ms. translation 1601-1700, per BnF, of work originally written in Latin, completed 1588. The original Latin manuscript is lost, but a version based on extant Latin copies (in manuscript) was published in 1857 by Ludwig Noack, Colloquium Heptaplomeres de Rerum Sublimium Arcanis Abditus, now online in Project Gutenberg. The Latin of 1857 was translated into English by Marion Leathers Daniels Kuntz as Colloquium of the Seven about Secrets of the Sublime, Princeton,, Princeton University Press, 1975, online in

102. Regarding superstition, considered by the Church to be a sinful bagatelle, Muratori explicitly warns: "Ubi ignorantia, ibi facile Superstitionem quoque reperias" (Where ignorance exists, you will easily find superstition too). Ludovico Antonio Muratori, Antiquitates Italicae Medii Aevi, De superstitionum semine in oscuri Italiae saeculis. Dissertatio quinquagesima nona, Vol. 12, Arezzo, M. Bellotti, 1778, p. 402.

103. Gilberto Sacerdoti, Bagatelle e figmenta: Pomponazzi e Averroè, in “Sacrificio e sovranità. Teologia e politica nell’Europa di Shakespeare e Bruno”, Turin, Einaudi, 2002, p. 295, n. 1. His page references are to the French translation of Bodin cited in n. 101.

104. Ibid. pp. 295-296. The quotations are from B. Nardi, Le opere inedite del Pomponazzi.  III, Filosofia e Religione, in “Giornale Critico della Filosofia Italiana” XXX (1951), G. C. Sansoni, 1950, pp. 376-378.  The original reads, “Ut communitas bene faciat, dicunt - Ibis in infernum, - sicut etiam facit nutrix puero, dandoli ad intendere la Zuliana et multas alias bagatellas ... Leges ergo fiunt et ponuntur ut hommes ad pacem reducantur” (Nardi, p. 377, as cited by Sacerdoti of n. 103, n. on his p. 296).

105. Pia Società di Ecclesiastici e Secolari, I Fasti della Chiesa nelle Vite de’ Santi, Milan, Angelo Bonfanti, 1828, p. 509. 

106. Don Chisciotte in Sierra Mora. Tragicommedia per Musica da rappresentarsi nella Cesarea Corte per comando Augustissimo nel Carnevale Dell’Anno M.D.CC.XIX, Venice, Domenico Lovisa, s.d.  [but 1804], p. 47. The libretto was first published in Vienna in 1719 by “Gio. Van Ghelen, Stampatore di Corte di Sua M. Ces. [Cesarea] e Cattolica.”

107. Even in our own day, although infrequently, “bagatella sin” is still mentioned. An example: on November 19, 1998, an interview appeared in the Espresso newspaper of Prof. Luigi Lombardi Vallauri, teacher of Philosophy of Law at the University of Florence, according to whom to admit the existence of hell on the part of the Catholic Church results in a “colossal injustice: … instead of re-educating the offender, as would be correct, Hell condemns him to eternal punishment, without escape… The Catholic Hell is too immeasurable a punishment in relation to the faults committed . . . because one can go to Hell for ‘bagatella-sins’ such as a quiet kiss sine periculo pollutionis [without risk of pollution]" ("colossale ingiustizia... invece che rieducare il reo, come sarebbe giusto, l'Inferno lo condanna a una pena eterna, senza scampo... l'Inferno cattolico è una pena troppo smisurata in rapporto alle colpe commesse... perché si può andare all'Inferno per ‘peccati-bagattella,’ come un bacio tranquillo sine periculo pollutionis”).

108. See also our historical essays Preti bagatelli nel Cinque e Seicento and Il Bagattino fra Storia e Letteratura I  and II (currently in Italian only)


Copyright Andrea Vitali © All rights reserved 2012, with revisions up to April 2023