David Teniers II made several pictures of card players in the 1640s, thereby taking up a theme popularised by Adriaen Brouwer a decade earlier. These include Le Bonnet Blanc, dated 1644 (private collection, Germany), and Card Players in an Inn (private collection; see M. Klinge, catalogue of the exhibition, David Teniers the Younger, Antwerp, 1991, nos. 33 and 34), both of which - like the present work - are composed using a central, triangular grouping of the main figures, illuminated from a window upper left, with figures in the background on the right. Brouwer's Card Players (Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich) seems to have been the source of this compositional formula. Margret Klinge has noted how in these works, Teniers moves away from Brouwer's vision of card players as ruffians consumed by greed, anger and recklessness, to show card playing as a simple, relaxing pleasure to be enjoyed after a day's work (op. cit., p. 114).
In this unpublished work, a bearded man has recently entered a tavern, his hat hanging on his chair and his vending basket at his side, to enjoy a game of cards where he is carefully observed coming to terms with defeat at the hands of a younger, sword-bearing man who is confidently revealing his aces to his opponent. The restrained palette, made up predominantly of browns and yellows, and the rapid, mottled rendering of the background recalls the artist's earlier style as seen, for example, in the Dice Players, datable to circa 1640, in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (ibid., no. 20). A copy of the present work, on canvas, is recorded in the Grossmann collection, Lorrach, sold in Freiburg, 14-15 March 1951, lot 529).