The young dandy in this painting is as gullible as the one we just met. He obviously has allowed himself to be lured to a place of ill repute, where he meets up with loose women, with a courtesan. He is being made to drink. There is no doubt as to the outcome: his pile of coins will surely end up joining the courtesan's, since the card-sharper who sits opposite him is deliberately cheating. All this conceited oaf's gold - the gold of the prodigal son, the gold of his father - is surely going to disappear.

The scene here is as totally motionless and silent as the fortune-teller scene: no one says or knows anything. Again, it is the hands that tell all. With the exception of the cheat, everyone's face is closed to an extraordinary degree. The servant has her eye on us, the courtesan on the cheat, and the young man on his cards. Each person gazes off into a different direction. On the other hand, the hands lend life to the game under way, carry out the plot: those of the young man cling awkwardly to the cards. He has started losing, and tenses up in reaction. Quite to the contrary, the courtesan's bearing is at once at ease and magnificently elegant. She stretches one hand out to the card-sharper, as if signalling him, and allows the wide sleeve of the other arm to fall over the cards and thus hide them and at the same time screen the pile of gold she already has won. As to the card-sharper, he certainly has no qualms about cheating, even going so far as to invite the viewer's complicity!

More detailed scrutiny reveals once again a young man with good reason to be proud: he is decked out in his best clothes - even his complexion is his Sunday best - and exhibits a portliness worthy of the day. Or, in other words, he represents the perfect pushover. The courtesan's face again features the strange smoothness and perfectly oval shape so obviously reminiscent of Noh masks. Indeed, to some extent we are on stage: the neutral tabletop surface and the courtesan's smooth chest serve as a frame to the action carried out by the hands, all of which takes place under the marvellously fiendish face of the courtesan.

This painting now belongs to the Louvre Museum collections. Perhaps you think you have seen it elsewhere? You could be right, since two versions of The Cheat exist. In this version, at the Louvre, he cheats with the ace of diamonds, whereas in the other, at the Fort Worth Kimbell Art Museum, he holds the ace of clubs!


Before leaving games behind, let us go on to the next painting in this secular series, which stages a dice party.