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Art of Gambling

Gambling in art is much more than an ordinary subject. This is due in large parts because its representation is based on two completely different bases: first as illustration of the normal everyday life, on the other hand, the mythical, symbolic idealization of human existence.




A. Everyday Life

In painting gambling often represents a kind of everyday situation par excellence. Gambling people create nothing, neither do they act, they are simply passing theit time. One could also say that heroes normally gamble at all, because they are almost always busy with essentials.

The first significant situation of this kind, which is to be seen throughout Western painting like golden thread, are the Legionaries who play dice for the clothes of Christ. This scene is actually not about the cruelty of the soldiers, which is much better illustrated with the whipping or the driving in of nails, but much more about their indifference. There is dying the son of God, and they are passing their time as usual with, the clothes couldn't have had much value anyway.


The Crucifixion by Andrea Mantegna 1457

In contrast to eating or simple rest gambling is normally depicted in a more or less negative context. People aren't only gambling to enrich themselves or to pass time. Quarrels are frequent, and in addition the obsession even cause sometimes the loss of all possessions and lead to complete disaster. That means that in many gambling paintings there is also at least latent violence present, greed and possible ruin. In this sense, these pictures can perhaps best be compared with those of alcohol consumption. And it's usual to show soldiers enjoying both pleasures.


Pieter Quast Soldiers Gambling with Dice 1643






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