Caravaggio, The Cardsharps, c 1595, Oil on canvas, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth
A dark world of violence, full of quarrelsome individuals and prostitutes, whose company Caravaggio enjoyed in the various taverns and in the streets of Rome, is the scenery where his paintings are often set. This world influenced Caravaggio’s art and is reflected in his work. Various people from the streets and the brothels of Rome feature in his paintings along with other characteristic pieces of roman life. This is especially true for his genre paintings, like the Cardsharps. Inside a tavern three young men –probably portrayed by Caravaggio’s acquaintances- are playing cards. One of them however is clearly being cheated by the other two. Primary sources – particularly legal documents- help us understand this scene which must have been common in the social circles of the artist.