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Fidelia and Speranza and the Page of Cups

April 30, 2013

Page of Cups -- fish and cup detailI just returned from a visit to San Diego. While there I visited the Timken museum where there was a painting called Fidelia and Speranza (Faith and Hope).  As you can see if you click on the embedded link, one of the two characters (presumably Fidelia) holds a cup with a snake popping out of it.  This, of course, reminded me of the RWS Page of Cups with its fish unexpectedly popping out of a cup.  Does anyone know the story behind this painting?  I wonder if it might shed new light on the use of the fish/cup imagery on the Page of Cups.

Cups 07 snake and cup detailAddendum: I should have also included the snake in a cup that we see on the Seven of Cups. Based on the association in this painting with that symbol and “Faith,” we can infer that same association on the Seven of Cups as well!

Second Addendum:  The following is a response from Robert Place when I asked him about this:

“The snake coming out of the cup is a symbol of faith based on the story of St. John the Apostle. When St. John was offered a cup of poisoned wine at a dinner he prayed over it and the poison left in the form of a snake. He was then able to drink the wine and disappoint his host by not dying. The cup with the snake became his symbol in his icons.
The alchemists used it as a symbol of the secret fire because the object of their quest was to turn a poison (symbolized by Hermes as a snake) into a healing elixir. The Magician in my Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery has a cup with a snake also.”

  1. “An important object that Fidelia uses in this story is a gold cup with a serpent designed on it. This cup was filled with water and wine which symbolizes communion and the serpent being a symbolization of the crucified Christ. This object shows that Fidelia definetly is the reprensentation of faith.”

    A longer analysis of Edmund Spenser’s original poem, which inspired Benjamin West to create this painting. Maybe you have more time and patience than I to read this. I prefer pithy posts! Very busy at the moment. Enjoy! I appreciate your posts!

    • Thank you for these references! I’ll have to read about that poem sometime. Like you, I find its length a bit daunting right now. 😀
      So … Perhaps the Page just has to take things ‘on faith’ due to his youth and innocence? Note that when I woke up this AM it occurred to me that the Seven of Cups has a snake coming out of a cup, just as Fidelia does in the paining, so I added a bit about that in the post above.

  2. James, I enjoy the fact the two sites I cited are from school essays! We didn’t study this when I was in school, and I’ve a graduate degree in art (and other art and college degrees/certs). The spelling errors within the quoted text bother me. I don’t usually correct spelling when copy/pasting.

    Inspiring and instructive that you work up with another association and updated your post. Now that’s what this is all about: think, feel, expand, connect associations, etc and not just take every word as law or fact.

    Tarot and mythology are so fascinating because of the back stories, always colored by each person’s references. Good stuff!

    Enjoy May Day, the lusty month of May. Posted links onto my Facebook profile re Broadway and movie versions of that song from Camelot. Then researched Queen Guinevere. Like the symbols in varied Tarot decks, many interpretations, from how to spell her name, her origins, relations with King Arthur and Sir Lancelot, and her character and what she represents.

    I wish I could just read and make art based on all this! But alas, my punk photos calling me. Working on my colorful, stunning Clash (rather than working for the clampdown), inspired by Bosch and the Pre-Raphaelites (speaking of Camelot) et al, lol! Have a jolly good day 😉

  3. James, of course I am familiar with your deck and influences, refs, etc! I’ve looked thru yr site, many times. Looked at yr side bar wherein you mentioned the artists. That’s why I made a pt of it. Although I always talk about art in Facebook, emails, face to face. My home surrounded by art history books. I always gravitate towards those who share my life-long interest and involvement in art, studying, creating, teaching, writing, etc. It’s why I very much appreciate what you do, James. Thank you 😉

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