Alberto Lollio

Written by  Enrica Domenicali

An ill-fated and ironic gambler in mid XVIth century Ferrara.

The Invettiva contro il gioco del tarocco (Invective against the game of tarots) by Alberto Lollio appeared in 1550 for the types of Gabriel Giolito, an important publisher in Venice, and was often reprinted in the following years. tyhe goal of the author of this work is to discredit the game, to unveil its malignant nature: in the text, he asserts that gamble in general, and that game of tarots in particular, must be banned, destroyed, cancelled from the face of the earth, together with those who practice it those who produce the cards, the colors with which they paint them, and - last but not least - the stupidity of the subjects they represent. Lollio wants to vent his rage against the game, “inventor of all the evils”, and gives way to an endless enumeration of all the miseries and atrociousnesses committed by the fools who, by gambling, are deprived not only of their wealth, but of their reason, freedom, and honor too. Someone loses everything and sells his own teeth or hairs to keep on gambling; someome makes himself a slave: some others induces his own wife or daughter to prostitution; or ruins his own family’s future generations. Gamble is the source of every disaster, therefore it sholud be prohibited: Lollio himself is induced to write about the game of tarots tas a matter of honor and pride: his own experience will be the strongest of warnings. Nevertheless, in spite of all the accusations, we discover there was a time in which Lollio’ expressed himself in favor of gambling, saying that “the best gamed that can be played with cards, was that of tarots”, which was played by the illustrious men of the past, and even by generals during sieges or the pauses of the battle. Such an acrimony turns out to be suspects and it seems this pamphlet could be a divertissement of a refined intellectual. In fact, in 1987 Franco Pratesi wrote two articles shedding light the counterpart of the Invettiva: the Risposta di M. Vincenzo Imperiali all’Invettiva di M. liberto Lollio contra il giuoco del Tarocco in third rhyme, contained, with to the Invettiva, in a manuscript of thirty sheets, written by Lollio himself, now in the Biblioteca Ariostea (ms. 257). Vincenzo Imperiali seems to have knowledge of many details: Lollio is not just a theorist, but a player too; and on the same day he composed the Invettiva had played with Ferrara bailiff and the cardinal, losing three scudi (not a lot of money, though!). but that it will be! However, how much amusement he got from this pleasant and intelligent game? Tarots were an innocent pastime, played by the gentlemen, and the “noblest dames of Italy”. Other games are to be considered dangerous. There is no doubt that tarots are a game for the gentleman: it was invented in the Courts of northern Italy in XVth century, as an exercise of mnemotechnique, more probably in Milan or in Ferrara. In Ferrara the game is documented since 1442, in the Court of Lionello d’Este. Even in those times, gambling hada very bad reputation and was pursued - although ineffectively - by the law. But tarots were considered with a less severe eye: the game itself was not a matter of pure fortune but of talent too, and the shrewdness and intelligence of the player could make the difference. Tarots was a strategy game, like chess and we know both these games enjoied the highest reputation at the Este court. Even Ercole II, contemporary of Lollio, was introduced to the game when he was only eight. Tarots and chess were part of his education, along with the Latin classics: a ruling prince had to acquire ability and skill in order is not be fooled by other noblemen or professional gamblers.” It was also a matter of money: in gambling you can win - or lose - a lot of money. And this Alberto Lollio knew very well, if we are to judge from his Invettiva, even if the lost money against Imperiali it does not seem have been great thing, at least to what Imperiali said. But who was Imperiali? What do we know about him? Antonelli, in the index of Manoscritti della Civica Biblioteca di Ferrara (Manuscripts of the Civic Library of Ferrara), cites Invettiva and the consequent Risposta pointing out that “our Alberto after its composition has transcribed, of own hand, in that small manuscript the hitherto unpublished answer, whose author is unknown to me”. All this carries to us towards the idea of a single author of the two compositions: Lollio gives way to his indignation and rage after an ill-fated game, then it makes pranks himself, wearing the cloths of his literary twin, the eloquent, although virtual, Vincenzo Imperiali. Remind Vincenzo means the one who wins!