Cardsharps (Caravaggio)

Cardsharps (Caravaggio)

Infobox Painting|

title=The Cardsharps
year=c. 1594
type=Oil on canvas
city=Fort Worth
museum=Kimbell Art Museum

"The Cardsharps" (around 1594) is a painting by the Italian Baroque artist Caravaggio.

The work represents an important milestone for Caravaggio. He painted it when he was attempting to make an independent career after leaving the workshop of the Cavaliere Giuseppe Cesari d'Arpino, for whom he had been painting "flowers and fruit" - finishing the details for the Cavaliere's mass-produced (and massive) output. Caravaggio left d'Alpino in January 1594 and began selling works through the dealer Costantino, with the assistance of an established painter of Mannerist grotesques (masks, monsters, etc.), Prospero Orsi. Orsi introduced Caravaggio to his extensive network of contacts in the world of collectors and patrons.

The painting shows an expensively-dressed but unworldly boy playing cards with another boy. The second boy, a cardsharp, has extra cards tucked in his belt behind his back, out of sight from the mark but not the viewer, and a sinister older man is peering over the dupe's shoulder and signaling to his young accomplice. The second boy has a dagger handy at his side, and violence is not far away.

It was the second such painting Caravaggio created. The first, "The Fortune Teller", had drawn attention, and this painting extended his reputation, small though it was at this stage. The subject of "The Fortune Teller" and "Cardsharps" was something new: realistic scenes of street life were a novelty, especially with this beautifully rendered attention to little details such as the split fingers on the older man's gloves, or the teenage cheat's anxious glance at his master. The psychological insight is equally striking, the three figures bound together by the common drama, yet each with his own unique play within the larger play - for if the innocent is being duped, the other boy is no older, another innocent being corrupted even as he cheats his gull. "Cardsharps", with its mixture of brutal low-life realism and luminous Venetian delicacy, was much admired, and Orsi "went around acclaiming (Caravaggio's) new style and heightening the reputation of his work." Over 50 copies and variants made by other painters have survived, with artists such as Georges de La Tour painting their own appreciations of the theme.

Whether through Costantino or Orsi, Caravaggio came to the notice of the prominent collector Cardinal Francesco Del Monte, who purchased "Cardsharps" and became the artist's first important patron, giving him lodgings in his Palazzo Madama behind the Piazza Navarro, then as now the main square in Rome. From Del Monte's collection the work entered the collection of Cardinal Antonio Barberini - nephew of the Pope Urban VIII whose pre-elevation portrait ("Portrait of Maffeo Barberini") Caravaggio would paint in 1598 - in Rome, and was passed through the Colonna-Sciarra family. It eventually disappeared in the 1890s, and was rediscovered in 1987 in a private European collection.

Sir Denis Mahon discovered in December, 2007, that a copy of "Cardsharps" previously believed to have been the work of someone else was actually Caravaggio's own. The fact that full detail of the face of one of the cheats had been sketched in spite of being painted over by the page's hat pointed to the extreme unlikelihood that it was done by a copy artist.


* [ Article from msnbc, Dec. 11, 2007 Anonymous painting attributed to Caravaggio]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Caravaggio — For other uses, see Caravaggio (disambiguation). Caravaggio Chalk portrait of Caravaggio by Ottavio Leoni, c. 1621. Birth name Michelangelo Merisi …   Wikipedia

  • Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da — (1571 1610).    Caravaggio was probably born in Milan. In 1572, he is documented in the town of Caravaggio where his family owned property, hence his name. In 1588 1592, he apprenticed with Simone Peterzano, a Milanese painter thought to have… …   Dictionary of Renaissance art

  • CARAVAGGIO (MICHELANGELO MERISI) — (1571 1610) One of the most influential Italian painters of the seventeenth century, Mi­chelangelo da Caravaggio, so called after the Lombard hometown of his family, where he spent much of his youth, is almost equally as notorious for his… …   Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary

  • 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… …   Dictionary of Renaissance art

  • The Lute Player (Caravaggio) — Infobox Painting| title=The Lute Player artist=Caravaggio year=c. 1596 type=Oil on canvas height=100 width=126,5 museum=Wildenstein Collection The Lute Player is a composition by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio. It exists in three versions …   Wikipedia

  • Chronology of works by Caravaggio — The following is a list of paintings by the Italian artist Caravaggio, listed chronologically.[1] List of paintings Painting Name Year Technique Dimensions City Gallery Notes …   Wikipedia

  • The Calling of St Matthew (Caravaggio) — Infobox Painting| title=The Calling of Saint Matthew artist=Caravaggio year=1599 1600 type=Oil on canvas height=322 width=340 city=Rome museum=San Luigi dei Francesi The Calling of Saint Matthew is a masterpiece by Michelangelo Merisi da… …   Wikipedia

  • The Fortune Teller (Caravaggio) — Infobox Painting| title=The Fortune Teller (second version) artist=Caravaggio year=c. 1595 type=Oil on canvas height=93 width=131 city=Paris museum=Louvre The Fortune Teller is a painting by Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da… …   Wikipedia

  • Cuadros de Caravaggio — Anexo:Cuadros de Caravaggio Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Retrato de Caravaggio por Ottavio Leoni (h. 1621). Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Milán, 29 de septiembre de 1571 18 de ju …   Wikipedia Español

  • Anexo:Cuadros de Caravaggio — Retrato de Caravaggio por Ottavio Leoni (h. 1621). Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Milán, 29 de septiembre de 1571 18 de julio de 1610), pintor italiano. Es uno de los exponentes más destacados de la escuela naturalista que surg …   Wikipedia Español

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.