A Woman playing Cards with Two Peasants

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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This painting can be read in two ways. One interpretation suggests that the woman has tempted the man into a game of cards – a metaphor for vice – and the moment shown is when she trumps his trick and reaches out for her winnings. He is the dupe, and the smile on the face of the man in the centre would therefore be one of mockery.

It may be, however, that the deceit is working the other way. Perhaps the amorous opponent has allowed her to win in the hope of gaining her favour. The smile on the face of the observer would therefore be a knowing smirk.

The painting has a pair, Two Lovers at Table, depicting a similar setting in which the woman is clearly demonstrating her power over a lustful and gullible man.

The National Gallery, London



A Woman playing Cards with Two Peasants




Oil on oak


H 26.3 x W 36.1 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bequeathed by John Henderson, 1879

Work type



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The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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