In seventeenth-century Flanders, paintings of peasant scenes began to take on a new character, emphasizing carousing, drinking, and smoking. The central action of this painting is a variation on the theme of cardsharks made popular by Caravaggio. Josse van Craesbeeck'sCard Players also shows the influence of his friend and teacher Adriaen Brouwer, who also painted sordid tavern scenes.
Craesbeeck presented peasants engaged in crude, dishonest, and vulgar activities. In this disreputable game of cards, the woman decides which card to play by examining her opponent's cards, which she sees in a mirror held up behind her opponent's back by her accomplice. At the right, another woman with a broken pipe at her feet drinks wine and smokes, while a man relieves himself against the wall. A seated child wearing a kind of turban plays on the floor. The woman with the straw hat and the bearded man, colored with great refinement, are characteristic types in Craesbeeck's repertory of figures. Possibly influenced by Caravaggio's followers, Craesbeeck paid careful attention to the effects of light, which streams into the room from a single window.