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4501 × 3239 px • JPEG
49.2 × 35.3 cm • 232 dpi
76.2 × 54.8 cm • 150 dpi
38.1 × 27.4 cm • 300 dpi
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About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Genre scene
Style of art: Baroque
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1594
Size: 94.2×131.2 cm
Artwork in selections: 41 selections
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Description of the artwork «Shuler»

Caravaggio is one of the key figures in the history of Western art. During his short life, he created a theatrical style, which for some became a shock, while others inspired the study of psychological drama in relationships.

Educated in Milan, Caravaggio came to Rome in the early 1590s. There is his early masterpiece "Shuler" attracted the attention of the influential Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, who not only acquired the painting itself, but also settled its author in Madame Palazzo. Thus, Caravaggio was represented by an elite layer of the Roman clergy, which soon gave him the first significant opportunity to receive large orders.

The characters of "Shulers" play "example", the forerunner of poker. On the left, a young man in expensive clothes examines his cards, not noticing that the senior fraudster is signaling to his young accomplice with a raised gloved hand (fingertips are cut off to better feel the marks on the cards). The rogue on the right looks expectantly at the victim of deception, reaching out for his back to pull out one of the cards hidden behind his belt.

For three figures, the viewer can immediately count five hands and only one notices the last - the left hand of the senior cheater. She appears on the table at the hand of his accomplice, as if from nowhere and visually very close to the dagger on the young man’s belt. Fingers visible only to the viewer are shifted to the handle of the weapon. This touch adds tension to the whole composition and uncertainty about the outcome of the game, and also leads to thoughts about meanness and betrayal in relations between scammers.

Caravaggio saw this scene not as a caricature of vice, but as an innovative move in which the interaction of gestures and views convey the drama of deception and loss of innocence in the form most understandable to the viewer. Schuler has generated many copies and inspired artists across Europe to countless paintings on similar topics. FrenchmanGeorges de Latour wrote his own scenes known as"A sharpie with a tambourine ace" (c. 1630, Louvre Museum) and"A sharpie with a ace of clubs" (c. 1630-1634, Kimbella Art Museum, Texas).

Caravaggio used light gray soil in this early work, which corresponds to his training in the northern tradition of Italian painting. Starting from about 1595-96, he adopted the brownish soil, common in Rome. The artist composed a composition of three individually conceived figures painted directly on canvas without preparatory drawings. For example, he first completely wrote the left hand of the senior sharpie, pulled in a glove, and only then depicted the younger on top of it. Conservatives discovered a series of pentimenti or transformations that the artist made in the process of work. For example, he changed the position of the fraudster's hand, cards and belt in the right corner, and also moved the stripes on his doublet.

Perhaps, instead of the initial drawing, Caravaggio used grooves to mark the location of elements on the canvas. In Shulers there are only strokes made on wet ground, for example, at the fingertips of a deceived player and around the edges of maps, however this technique was used much more widely in his later works. Other innovative methods that distinguish the painting from the collection of the Kimbell Museum of Art are manipulating wet paint to increase the realism of surface textures. When Caravaggio painted silk brocade on a crook in the center, he touched the wet paint with his thumb or other fingers. In addition, the black embroidery on the collar of the young man on the left is created by the end of the brush.

"Shuler" refers to the most well-preserved works of Caravaggio. Even the delicate red glaze hearts on the fraudster’s card were saved. Removing a later addition - a horizontal canvas strip with a height of 14 cm - from the upper edge returned the composition to its original size. During the 1987 restoration, the seal of Cardinal del Monte was found on the back of the painting. This sign belonging to the work of the collection of the prince of the church was previously found onFortune Teller Caravaggio, which is located in the Capitoline Museums in Rome.

After del Monte, the canvas was owned by such influential Italians as Cardinal Antonio Barberini and the Colonna Charra family. By the end of the 19th century, the traces of Schulers were lost for about 90 years, until in 1987 the painting was discovered in one of the private collections in Zurich. It was bought by the Kimbella Art Museum, where it is kept to this day.

In 2006, a certain Mr. Lancelot Thwaites brought a picture to Sotheby's for examination, which the auction house defined as a copy of the Shulers, created in the 17th century, and valued it at only 20-30 thousand pounds. It was purchased at auction by British art critic Denis Maon, who declared the painting a replica written by Caravaggio himself (as you know, the artist made copies of his paintings), and suggested that it costs 10 million. After the death of Mahon, the former owner sued Sotheby'sblaming auction house for negligence. However, an expert opinion was presented at the hearing that the painting was painted by another artist, and Thwaites had to pay £ 1.8 million in legal costs to the company.

Author: Vlad Maslov
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