Prudence, Avarice, Lust, Justice, Anger
Oil on canvas, 182.9 x 198.1 cm
Collection Barley Art Museum, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
Jack Beal is one of a group of artists who, coming out of the abstract expressionist movement, sought to re-introduce realism into the vocabulary of 20th century contemporary art, and consequently formed a style called American Realism.
Cheating seem to be the main motif in this painting. In addition to the fight, that must have resulted from someone's suspicion of cheating, we can also see a card stashed into the cheat's waistline. The upper left index corner of the card reveals that the card is a black ace.
We can assume that the cheat in this case was using one of numerous methods of a "money switch", i.e. switching cards in and out of play under cover of adding money to the pot. Possibly he may have been manipulating cards in and out of his waistline as he was getting cash in and out of his pocket that appears to be overflowing with dollar bills. Establishing any kind of mannerism during a game, such as getting cash in and out of the pants pocket, would be a legitimate method of cheating. Once such consistent mannerism is established the suckers may no longer question blunt moves, such as constantly reaching under the table. This suggest that Jack Beal must have been let in on some secrets of card cheating.
Interestingly enough, the players seem to be using bridge-size Autrian-made Piatnik playing cards, as opposed to American made poker-size cards that one would usually expect to encounter in home games across the US. The precise design of Piatnik cards included in this painting is Tudor Rose, from Piatnik's "Luxury Line" of playing cards. This detail is clearly visible from the backs of the cards, best seen in the hand of the cheat, as well as from the cards on the floor, from which we can depict the Queen of Hearts and the Queen of Spades (both cards also displayed in the spread below).