Cézanne became interested in depicting labourers playing cards in the autumn of 1890. During the 1890s he completed five paintings of this subject. Here, the composition is refined down to two men seated across a table in undefined surroundings. The players face each other but are immersed in the ritual of the game.
Farm workers from the estate of Cézanne’s father posed for the two figures. They are the human equivalents of the painter’s views of Mount Saint Victoire: timeless, monumental and resolutely Provençal.