Among the oldest games devised for the pleasurable spending of man's leisure hours are those seen on these pages in paintings by two master artists of the 17th century—Pieter de Hooch of Holland and Mathieu Le Nain of France. Flourishing as a sport in the social circles of the upper classes in the 1600s, bowling dates at least to the 13th century. Card playing has been a pastime enjoyed in Europe for the past 600 years, and backgammon was written of by Chaucer and played by the Greeks and Romans.
In the charming formal garden at the right, de Hooch has painted fashionable citizens of Amsterdam at a casual game of Dutch skittles. Far more delicate than modern American bowling, the object of this game is to knock down the crowned center "king" pin without disturbing the "subjects," a feat requiring considerable skill. De Hooch's dramatic handling of the glow of sunshine, for which he is famous, and the intensely personal feeling he injected into his work is again seen in another of his canvases, the striking interior genre scene on the following page. The coquettish lady sitting before the fireplace is playing a two-handed round of cards with a gentleman in a richly handsome room while another ancient game—romance—flourishes in the background.
An artist of the same period, Le Nain came under the influence of the painters from the Netherlands who were in Paris during the mid-1600s, and worked in much the same style. An outstanding example of this is his picture of two dashing cavaliers—plumed hats, fine doublets and all—playing the French version of backgammon, called trictrac in imitation of the sound the dice make in the cup.
THE GAME OF SKITTLES by PIETER DE HOOCH
March 5, 1956
JOUEURS DE CARTES by PIETER DE HOOCH
In drawing room of elegance in 17th century Netherlands a lady enjoys a game of cards.
JOUEURS DE TRIC-TRAC by MATHIEU LE MAIN
Backgammon, one of the most ancient contests, was popular with the men of Europe.