• Cheat with the Ace of Diamond

Cheat with the Ace of Diamond

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Cheat with the Ace of Diamond
Artist: Georges de La Tour
Oil painting on canvas; Size: 106x146cm; Louvre, Paris.

Cardsharp with Ace of Diamonds was painted by Georges de La Tour between 1630 and 1634 and is signed "Georgius de La Tour fecit." There is another version of the same subject, in the Kimbell Art Museum at Fort Worth, with a few variants (the most significant being that the figure on the left is concealing an ace of clubs and not diamonds). The theme of cheating at cards was a common one in 17th-century European painting, and was introduced by Caravaggio with his famous picture The Cardsharps, painted around 1594 and also in the Fort Worth museum. In Caravaggio's work as well as the one under examination here a young and richly dressed man is shown being swindled during a game of cards. In Merisi's version the cardsharp had a man as his accomplice, spying on the cards in the young gentleman's hand, whereas in this picture the cheat is assisted by two women, one seated at the table and the other, a maidservant, pouring wine. The subject was seen as a warning against gambling, a common practice everywhere in Europe and opposed by the Church, but was at the same time appreciated as a "genre" picture representing, in an amusing way, different human types and modes of behavior, including base or depraved ones. In this sense La Tour's work can be considered one of the most successful of the many pictures of this art subject that were painted in those years: the exchange of glances between the two women, who are orchestrating the deception without speaking, is remarkable. Here La Tour displays a great capacity of psychological discernment and a rare narrative skill in telling the story with just a few, highly restrained gestures.

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