Feb 22, 2008

Game of Backgammon

Game of Backgammon


David Teniers

(Flemish, 1610–1690)

Oil on wood, transferred to canvas

Framed: 82 x 102 x 9 cm (32 5/16 x 40 3/16 x 3 9/16 in.); Unframed: 59 x 80.6 cm (23 1/4 x 31 3/4 in.)

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel D. Wise 1943.377



The game of backgammon has a long and popular history which can be traced back many centuries. The version of the game as it is played in modern times first appeared in the 1400s under various names. Its current appellation was coined around the same time as the date of this painting. Backgammon was exceptionally popular in the 1600s, and was often played for money or other wagers. The two men on the left side of this painting are clearly involved in a high stakes game of backgammon. A three-man cluster has gathered to watch them lay their bets, while another tallies their points on a scoreboard. The young lady in the right corner of the room otherwise surrounded by men and the older women who looks down on the game of backgammon from a window, both indicate that the interior presented in this painting is probably the gaming room of a brothel. Courtesans often worked out of such game rooms, providing further entertainment for men. Depictions of games, like procurement scenes, often symbolized moralizing virtues. Games were considered at best folly and at worst immoral. Backgammon was often used to represent the foolishness or wickedness of betting and wasting one's time.

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