The Cardsharpers 1615-18
Oil on canvas, 94,5 x 137 cm
©Gemäldegalerie, Dresden, Germany
Of all French painters active in Rome in the 1620s, the most consistent, and the only one who can be claimed to have genius, is Valentin. He died relatively young, without leaving Rome. Baglione says that he died after taking a cold bath in a fountain following a drinking bout; his death was much lamented in the artistic community.
Many of his earlier pictures, painted when he was much closer in spirit to Caravaggio, have remained unidentified until recently. The best example of his early work is the Dresden Cardsharpers which is based on a similar composition by Caravaggio.
In the Dresden painting Valentin has seized on the evil nature of the villain, creating an obvious story completely lacking in subtlety, but delicacy is shown in his handling of the paint which, as always in his work, is very much more refined than that of Caravaggio.