The Last Judgment
Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911
Although tarot cards originated around 1425–50 in Milan or Ferrara, they were not generally used for fortune-telling until the 1780s. Fifteenth-century painted tarot cards are exceedingly rare, and no complete deck (seventy-eight cards) survives. The deck to which this card belongs has been attributed to Bonifacio Bembo and his family. Bembo was the favorite painter of Bianca Maria Visconti (1425–1468), and it seems likely that the deck was made for her and her husband, Francesco Sforza (1401–1466), whose betrothal (1432) and marriage (1441) united the two families and whose emblems and devices are intermingled on several of the cards.
A half-figure of Christ, wearing a crown, holds a sword in his right hand and a cross-surmounted tripartite globe in his left hand. He is flanked by angels playing trumpets with banners, one of which is inscribed with a cross. Below are three resurrected figures in a grave. Two of the figures have their joined hands raised as in prayer.