The Game of Cards
Cornelis de Man (Delft 1621 - Delft 1706)
Much is going on beneath the surface of this picture of a man and woman playing at cards, which was probably painted in Delft where De Man worked for most of his career. The woman cranes round to give the viewer a meaningful look, exposing her ankle from beneath her skirts. This is an erotically-charged gesture that gives away what is really at stake in the game, and her likely profession. Card-playing was associated with deceit and indecency in seventeenth-century Dutch art; indeed, there was an expression to the effect that ‘whores hold all the cards’. The picture has suffered damage over the years, and was probably trimmed down along the right-hand edge. Only the relatively well-preserved figure of the woman and table cloth gives an impression of the picture’s original appearance and its atmospheric play of light.
Oil painting on panel, The Game of Cards by Cornelis de Man (Delft 1621 - Delft 1706), c.1655-65. An interior with a woman in an olive green skirt and red bodice, seated at a table, her back to the spectator, facing and playing cards with a man who wears a brown doublet and broad brimmed hat. A small child takes some cards from the table.
Possibly anonymous sale, Paris, 13-14 May 1839, lot 89, as de Hoogh (see Briere-Misme - the catalogue entry reads, 'La partie de cartes; le mari joue aux cartes avec sa femme; pres d'eux est un petit enfant); M. Sortais, Paris, from whom bought by J.P. Heseltine (1843 - 1929), 1897; with Agnew 1918, and sold to Mrs. Greville in 1919. The bequest of Margaret (Anderson) McEwan, The Hon. Mrs Ronald - later Dame Margaret - Henry Fulke Greville, DBE (1863-1942) from probate records linked with the donation of the property to the National Trust in 1943. This item found on the record for Polesden Lacey pictures, drawings etc., stored in the cellar, page 173.
Polesden Lacey, The McEwan Collection (National Trust)
Makers and roles
Cornelis de Man (Delft 1621 - Delft 1706), artist previously catalogued as by Pieter de Hooch (Rotterdam 1629 – Amsterdam 1684), artist