(1597 –Antwerp --‐1637)
Card players in an interior
Signed lower right: T. ROMBOVTS
Oil on canvas
147 x 186 cm.
The present work, Card Players, belongs amongst the finest and most representative works of Rombouts’s Caravaggesque genre scenes. Recalling Manfredi’s merry company pictures, there is a marked sense of monumentality to the five figures that are arranged around a carpeted table, engaged in a game of cards. The individuals are realistic and expressive; the scene appears convincingly spontaneous and natural. Rombouts introduces repoussoir figures that confront the viewer and direct attention to the central bearded figure who stares down at his hand of cards, presumably a self-portrait. Rombouts also included a portrait of his wife, Anna, in the hatted figure seated beside him. The inclusion of self-portraits and portraits of family members was not unusual in Dutch and Flemish genre painting, despite the potentially negative associations of moralizing subjects. Card playing was perceived as a time-waster, at best and at worst, was associated with any number of disreputable behaviours. Though no alcohol is depicted, coins are strewn about the table: a reference to the “unwholesome” activity of gambling.