Gaspare Traversi was one of the most original painters active in Italy during the XVIII century. His witty genre scenes where people of all social classes, from beggars to elegant members of the aristocracy, are portrayed with an ironic eye are often seen by art historians as a Neapolitan version of Hogarth paintings.
The beginnings of Traversi career took place in the 1740s in Naples where Francesco Solimena, who died in 1747, was still the most relevant figure; indeed the first works by Traversi, with their dark tones and their deep shadows, are indebted to Solimena’s late paintings but since his early years paintings like the three canvases for Santa Maria dell’Aiuto in Naples show a more realistic approach.
Traversi probably didn’t have a great success in Naples and in 1752 he decided to move to Rome where he settled in Trastevere borough and where he spent the rest of his life apparently without having been noticed by the art critics of the papal city and receiving only few public commissions mostly thanks to his friend Fra Raffaello Rossi da Lugugnano.
Traversi painted card players several times during his career: from the early work currently in a private collection in Naples (cfr. M. Confalone in Gaspare Traversi napoletani del ‘700 tra miseria e nobiltà, catalogue of the exhibition Napoli 2003, pp. 103 – 105) to the painting of the Musée des Beaux Arts of Rouen (fig. 1) usually dated at the last years in Naples or just after his arrival in Rome. Among paintings with different subjects a close resemblance may be found with paintings such as the Seduction scene at the Koelliker collection (fig. 2) with figures portrayed on a large scale dressed in bright colours, a painting of 1753 – 1755, a few years after the arrival in Rome. A similar date should fit also for the present painting which for the high quality of the execution and for the elegance of the setting represents a major addition to the Traversi oeuvre.