Traversi was born sometime between 1722 and 1724 in Naples; a crucifixion dating from 1748 is one of the artist’s earliest works and was produced whilst Traversi received his initial training in the workshop of Solimena. Such earlier works show the influence of Roman painting, particularly of Maratta, while at the same time Traversi combined a form of Caravaggesque realism with the neo-baroque qualities of the mature Solimena. These characteristics are particularly evident in his large religious works for the Neapolitan church of S. Maria dell'Aiuto of 1749, his only documented work for his native city.
Early in his career Traversi probably began to experiment with portraiture and genre scenes, following the notable success of Giuseppe Bonito. Like the latter his subject matter were often taken from the lives of the ordinary people and bourgeoisie. By 1752 Traversi was working in Rome where he spent the remainder of his life, living in Trastevere and executing works for the Carmelites of S. Girosogono. There, influenced by the work of Marco Benefial, Traversi moved towards greater naturalism. He married and fathered a daughter in 1765, continuing to work for Roman and Neapolitan patrons throughout the remainder of his career. His popular genre scenes include subjects such as the Engagement or the First Dance, the Embroidery Class, the Five Senses, Card Games and Musical Parties. All were painted with considerable attention to details of dress and furnishings, and thus provide an important record of contemporary life in Rome and Naples. His ability to command a variety of styles is demonstrated by paintings which are sometimes executed with exacting realism but on other occasions more stylized and with an acute sense of Caravaggesque chiaroscuro. Still other genre scenes depict people across social class - beggars to elegant members of the aristocracy – with an irony suggestive of the English painter Hogarth.
Traversi painted card players on several occasions during his career. An early work (private collection, Naples) is illustrated in the exhibition catalogue Gaspare Traversi napoletani del ‘700 tra miseria e nobiltà (Naples 2003, pp. 103 – 105) and the painting in the Musée des Beaux Arts of Rouen is usually dated to circa 1750.
The large-scale figures and commanding execution in combination with the elegance of the setting in the present painting suggest a date of 1753 or 54, well after the painter’s arrival in Rome.