The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX, USA
The subject of The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs constitutes a moral essay on the vanity of worldly affairs. Flamboyantly dressed figures, seated around a table, are engaged in fleecing a naive young dupe. The cardsharper at left is slipping an ace from behind his back, on a signal from the courtesan in the center. The wily-looking servant is set to cause a distraction by passing a glass of wine. The worldliness of the nefarious trio contrasts with the innocence of the young man who, as in the story of the Prodigal Son, falls victim to the temptations of wine, women, and gambling. Earlier, in The Cardsharps, another painting belonging to the Kimbell, Caravaggio had established the essential formula for the depiction of this drama; the stock characters were the dupe, the cheat, and his sinister accomplice. La Tour elaborates upon Caravaggio's theme of deceit and corruption by substituting an overdressed courtesan for the signaling ruffian.