David Teniers II returned repeatedly to the subject of tavern interiors with card games, often with two figures seated at a small wooden table surrounded by smoking and drinking bystanders, throughout his prolific career. These paintings take up a theme that had been popularized by Adriaen Brouwer in the 1630s. As is typical of Teniers’ approach to this subject, the central narrative takes place in the shallow foreground space, with carefully drawn still life elements arranged along the bottom edge and subsidiary figures in the background. Among Teniers’ favored elements, as here, was the inclusion of the innkeeper seen departing through an open door in the painting’s background.
This painting once belonged to Sir James Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale at Lowther Castle, as recorded in a mezzotint by Captain William Baillie executed in reverse and dated 1771 (fig. 1). The painting had evidently left Lowther Castle by the early 1830s, for John Smith (loc. cit.) only knew of it through Baillie’s print.