Painting table analysis

Georges de La Tour - The Ace of Diamonds Cheater

This genre scene inspired by Caravaggio illustrates the moral precepts of the XVII ° century which incited to fight against the scourge of gambling, excessive alcohol and pleasures of the flesh with courtesans. De La Tour realistically seized three characters in the middle of playing cards while the servant served a glass of wine under the courtesan's orders.

De La TOUR - The Cheater with the ace of diamonds - Louvre - photo gm

Georges de La Tour - The Cheater with the ace of diamonds - 1635 - Louvre - Photo Guy Mauchamp

What catches my eye in this group scene is that the characters seem more present in their individual concerns than being in touch with others. It is believed to be facing a group of players united by the pleasure of the card game while other singular events are tied separately. The young man on the right, certainly a wealthy bourgeois in view of his ornate clothes and the number of gold coins, is kept apart from the other three people according to the harmonic grid of the green square. His lost and pensive gaze seems to reveal a feeling of confusion in the face of the intrigues of the three characters.

De La Tour - Le Tricheur - the young bourgeois sidelined by the square grid

De La Tour - Le Tricheur - the wealthy young bourgeois is sidelined from the three characters with the grid of the green square.

On the other hand, the composition grid of the blue square links the young man, the courtesan and the maid on a diagonal through three points of the first rule (blue circles) and puts the cheater aside. The latter seems to divert attention with his mocking look so that his act of cheating goes unnoticed.

Note the feather duster of the servant who is placed as a marker on the diagonal of the blue square.

De La Tour, Le Tricheur, the harmonic grid of the blue square

De La Tour - The Cheater - The blue square links the three characters on the right diagonally and isolates the cheater.

The crossing in the center of the two squares highlights the link between the courtesan and the servant. They seem to be colluding but we wonder who is intended for this unique glass of wine when there are two guests?

De La Tour - The Cheater - the composition isolates the two men

De La Tour - Le Tricheur - With the bond of the two squares the men are isolated while the two women seem to be in bond.

Below, the golden composition grid (in yellow) points to the cheater's index finger and above all it connects the noses of the three players. The nose in the reference points of the first rule of composition can take on several symbolic aspects. Is it a question of flair to guess the intentions of each? We saw on the "iconography of drunkenness" page that the wine cup contains interesting clues to be revealed thanks to pictorial archeology.

De La Tour - Le Tricheur - The golden composition grid

De La Tour - Le Chicheur - The golden grid links the noses of the three players.

Below, the iconography of drunkenness shows that the wine tilted in the glass (extended in pink) points to two decks of cards, the gold coins and the pearl necklace which is an attribute of the courtesans. The axis of this glass points to the fourth nose, that of the servant. The three plagues are therefore united in this composition, alcohol, gambling and lust. These elements are centered around the courtesan who seems to direct the situation by her gesture with her right hand to offer the wine to the cheater. But is this the case?

De La Tour, Le Tricheur, the tilted wine

De La Tour - Le Tricheur - The tilted wine connects the three plagues: alcohol, gambling and lust with the courtesan's necklace.

Below, the courtesan's line of sight (in red) rests on the golden grid at the edge of the format (red arrow). It seems that the intuition of the courtesan dictates to him that the old man would be a cheater who wants money from the young bourgeois, while she herself would also like to take the young man's gold coins but in using her feminine strengths.

De La Tour - Le Tricheur - the tilted wine rests on the golden grid

De La Tour - Le Tricheur - The courtesan's right eye line points to the golden grid on the format.

Let's check this interpretation with the courtesan's lines of sight:

Below, the courtesan points at 36 ° (in yellow) the servant's eye and her thumb (her will). The cheater's nose is again pointed by a 9 ° look (in light blue) while she suspects the index finger of the hand holding the ace of diamonds with a look at 30 ° (in green). It seems that the courtesan is aware that the man is trying to swindle the rich young man, which is why she firmly orders the maid to intoxicate the cheater in order to minimize her abilities.

De La Tour - Le Tricheur - Les regards d

De La Tour - Le Tricheur - The Courtesan's Looks.

But what about the young bourgeois? It is often described as a sort of inexperienced fool, an easy prey for the two predators facing it.

Below, the young man's gaze (in red) arises like that of the courtesan on the golden grid at the edge of the format (red arrow). All the angles of this man's gaze show that he is fully aware of the game in front of him: wine was used only for cheating, money, card games, the gesture of hidden cheating, nothing seems escape him.

De La Tour - Le Tricheur - Les regards du jeune homme.

De La Tour - Le Tricheur - The young man's 9 ° viewing angles; 18 ° and 36 ° on the servant and the wine, the money and the hidden cheating gesture of the cheater.

There would be many other lines of composition to reveal with this scene full of intrigue of society. For example, other composition grids have been demonstrated on the "harmonic grids" page.

But for now, I prefer to stay on this demonstration and would like to know how you interpret it on your side.

Do not hesitate to leave your comment, your questions at the bottom of the page, my pleasure is to be able to exchange with you on the pictorial composition. Thank you.

Guy MAUCHAMP