The Card Players
Jan Massys (Antwerp c.1509 - Antwerp 1575)
This genre scene was described in 1755 as ‘The Artist and his Family at Cards.’ The central figure certainly looks like a portrait, but it cannot be established with any certainty as to whether he is indeed the artist. Later, in the 1920s, the additional title of ‘The Prodigal Son’ was apparently introduced. However, the reason for this is not clear. The scene probably has a moralising undertone. The old man (cardsharp) is looking lasciviously towards the young girl (who, nevertheless, holds the ace of hearts and guards her coins) whilst the central male figure, consoled by an elderly lady, seems to have been fleeced and the money is being gambled away. This picture, bought by Charels Wyndham, 2nd Earl Egremont. was far from a conventional purchase in the eighteenth century. It was relatively expensive at £48.6 and his only 16th-century northern European acquisition.
Oil painting on panel, The Card Players by Jan Massys (Antwerp c.1509 - Antwerp 1575), circa 1540. Called the Prodigal Son in 1920, four card players, including a young man centre, full face in deep copper red. At left, is an old publican wearing a red hood and green blouse. On the right-hand side is a girl, and an old woman, both three-quarters left. On the table are cards and money, with a background of a panelled wall and an open window. The old man on the left derives from a picture by the artist's father Quentin Metsys (Massys) (1465-1530) of Money-Changers and the picture was thought to be of him and his family and by him until the mid-19th century. Jan Massys was banished from Antwerp in 1544 but returned in 1558 and where he died.
Acquired by Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont (1710-1763) at the Sir Robert Austin (c.1708 - 1772) sale on 10 January 1755 for £48.6; thence by descent, until the death in 1952 of the 3rd Lord Leconfield, who had given Petworth to the National Trust in 1947, and whose nephew and heir, John Wyndham, 6th Lord Leconfield and 1st Lord Egremont (1920-72) arranged for the acceptance of the major portion of the collections at Petworth in lieu of death duties (the first ever such arrangement) in 1956 by HM Treasury.
Petworth, The Egremont Collection (National Trust)
Marks and inscriptions
47 (an old number painted bottom right)
Makers and roles
Jan Massys (Antwerp c.1509 - Antwerp 1575) , artist previously catalogued as by Quinten Metsys (Louvain 1466 - Antwerp 1530) , artist previously catalogued as possibly Jan Sanders van Hemessen (Hemiksem c. 1500 - Haarlem 1566), artist
Waagen 1854-7 Gustav Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, 3 vols. (translated by Lady Eastlake) with a supplementary volume: Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain, London, 1854-7, vol.iii, p.35 Collins Baker 1920 C.H.Collins Baker, Catalogue of the Petworth Collection of Pictures, in the possession of Lord Leconfield, privately printed by the Medici Society, London, 1920, no. 47 Loan Exhibition of Pictures and Work of Art from Petworth House, Wildenstein, London, 1954, p. 18 Remastered - Bosch to Bellotto: An Exhibition of Petworth's European Old Masters (exh cat) (Andrew Loukes) Petworth House, West Sussex, 9 January - 6 March 2016, cat. 20, p. 14