Caravaggio and Goya: Card Players

Caravaggio and Goya: Card Players
Caravaggio and Goya: Card Players

Card games are a traditional theme in painting since ancient times, there are many paintings in which the various forms of leisure of all stages are reflected, in this entry we will analyze two emblematic works that represent idleness of the protagonists.

In the last years of the 16th century, around 1595, the most representative artist of the Italian Baroque style Michenlangelo Mersi si Caravaggio better known simply as Caravaggio, made the one that for Many historians have considered The Card Players to be the last painting that closes the artist's formative stage. The work was commissioned by Italian Cardinal Francesco Maria di Monte for his own collection and the work was supposedly paired with another canvas painted by the artist depicting Bonaventure.


The almost quadrangular format work is about one hundred and ten centimeters wide and one hundred high and was painted using the oil on canvas technique; it shows two men playing cards while a third makes signs to his buddy to tell him the cards of his opponent. In this way the artist represents how sometimes the ingenuity of good men is taken advantage of by evil men in his favour. Set in an interior, the work has a clear and luminous light far from the gloomy that years later the artist would reap inhis best-known canvases.

Following this same theme of card players and deception in the second half of the 18th century, 1777, the artist from Zaragoza Francisco de Goya made a canvas that was to be served as a support for the manufacture of tapestries in the Royal Tapestry Factory. The work must have decorated the Hall of the Palacio del Pardo in Madrid together with another ten canvases in which rural scenes were represented and among which we can highlight the Children inflating a bladder or The Kite.


On this occasion the Spanish artist places the scene in an outdoor environment, where men dressed according to the canons of the time –like majos- play cards in the shade from a tree. On this occasion, a couple of men look with concern at the cards they have been de alt while on one of the sides rests a hat with the game bet. Meanwhile, the player, dressed in red pants and a yellow jacket, looks up at his cronies who are gesturing at him in the shade of the tree.

It is precisely the lighting environment that is one of the most outstanding facets of Goya's painting, in which the contrasts between lights and shadows projected by the blue layer that hangs from the branches of the tree can be appreciated. The loose invoice of the painting still allows us to intuit the magnificent drawing of the artist and his creative capacity, in a work that represents the atmosphere of Madrid in the 18th century and that shares with the work of Caravaggio the picaresque of the game and of the man.

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