Cardsharps, fortune tellers, and other dubious (but secretive fun) pursuits

May 5, 2020 at 6:16 pm (Art)

It began, as did so much in Baroque painting, with Caravaggio:

The Cardsharps, 1594

“With this petty crime scene, Cardsharps, the young Caravaggio invented a genre of trickery pictures.” (from

Cheat with the Ace of Clubs, by Georges de la Tour, 1630-34


The Cardsharps, by Gerard van Honthorst


The Procuress by Dirck van Baburen, 1622


The Proccuress by Johannes Vermeer, 1656


The Fortune Teller, by Caravaggio, 1595


Fortune Teller by Georges de la Tour, 1630


Fortune Teller with Soldiers by Valentin de Boulogne, 1618-20

These pickpocket paintings brought to mind this number from the musical Oliver!

Why should we break our backs
Stupidly paying tax?
Better get some untaxed income…

Gerrit (Gerard) van Honthorst, Dirck van Baburen, and Hendrick ter Brugghen were the primary exemplars of a group of artists that have come to be known as the Utrecht Caraviggisti. Caravaggio had no workshop and did not deliberately seek to pass on his distinctive artistic proclivities. Nevertheless, his unique, revolutionary style – the use of models from everyday life, their up close, in your face presentation, and above all, the heightening drama of darkness and light – had a profound influence on his contemporaries and immediate followers.

I’ve saved Hendrik ter Brugghen’s Gamblers for last:

This is because I want to share with you this delightful bit of street theater staged in music. I believe it was conceived as an accompaniment to Utrecht,  Caravaggio, and Europe, a special exhibit at Munich’s great Alte Piankothek. It was staged last year. Oh, to have seen it!




1 Comment

  1. kdwisni1 said,

    Vermeer? I had no idea–can’t remember we seeing this one before.

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