Cardsharps


Cardsharps
(1595-1596; Fort Worth, Kimball Museum of Art).
   This was the first painting Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte purchased from Caravaggio. At the time, the subject of the work was quite unusual in that it depicted figures simply engaged in a game. Sofonisba Anguissola had painted such scenes, but hers were intended as portraits. The subject soon became quite popular among Caravaggio's followers in Italy and the Netherlands. The work shows three men playing cards, two of them cheating; clearly, gambling is involved. The glances and emphatic gestures leave little doubt as to the men's intentions. They stand around a table where a space has been left open for viewers, thus inviting them to participate in the scene. The three-quarter length of the figures, their proximity to the spectator, sharp contours, theatrical lighting, and rich colorism are all elements Caravaggio learned from Venetian masters.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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