Famous Artwork: The Card Players

Editorial credit: Sergey Goryachev / Shutterstock.com. A French stamp pays tribute to The Card Players, circa 1961.
Editorial credit: Sergey Goryachev / Shutterstock.com. A French stamp pays tribute to The Card Players, circa 1961.

Paul Cezanne, a Post-Impressionist French artist, is accredited for creating a series of paintings known as The Card Players. Cezanne worked on the paintings during his final period which was sometime in the early 1890s. Each piece in the series features peasants seated around a plain table while playing cards. All the subjects in the painting are male, immersed in the game and extremely attentive to their card playing. Cezanne used local farmhands, some of whom worked on his family estate, as models for the paintings. Each piece in the series depicts some still concentration and quietness.

Background of the Artist

On January 19, 1839, Paul Cezanne was born to quite wealthy parents in Aix-en-Provence. Cezanne's father had high hopes for his son to become a successful banker like himself. However, Cezanne already had an idea of what he wanted to do; this brought a rift between him and his father. Cezanne is believed to be among the most influential artists of the 20th-century and he inspired a generation of modern artists. Cezanne's work demonstrated a mastery of craftsmanship, composition, color, and design.


In preparation for The Card Players, Paul Cezanne worked on numerous studies and drawings alike. Cezanne is believed to have worked on the series of The Card Players paintings between 1890 and 1895. The quintet series of paintings are considered to be a cornerstone of the artist's final period; this is when he created the majority of his acclaimed art. The Card Players features a series of five paintings which not only vary in size but also in the number of subjects in the paintings. The setting in which the game takes place is also different in the five pieces.

Current Location of the Card Players

The Card Players are spread around the world. One of the paintings featuring four men and a boy can be found in Philadelphia at the Barnes Foundation. The painting that features only the four men can be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. One of the three versions with the two card players is on display at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris France while the other can be found at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. The last piece of The Card Players belongs to the royal family of Qatar as part of a private collection.

Theft and Recovery

In August 1961, the version of The Card Players on exhibit in Paris was part of a high-profile theft. The burglars looted eight of Cezanne's paintings from a traveling show in Aix-en-Province, Cezanne's hometown. The version of The Card Players was the most valuable piece among the eight stolen works. France expressed the depths of a national loss of The Two Players by issuing a memorial postage stamp. Stories of how the stolen art was recovered vary. While some sources claim that the stolen art was recovered inside an abandoned car in Marseille, France a year after they were stolen, others say that the paintings were returned several months later once their ransom was paid.

Painting Appraisal

According to a 2012 report by Vanity Fair, one of the versions of the painting was bought by the royal family of Qatar. The family is said to have purchased the piece in 2011 for a record price estimated to be between $250 million and $320 from George Embiricos. The sale made this version of The Card Players the third most expensive work of art ever to be sold.


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