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Two Genre Scenes

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These two small parlour paintings might represent two complementary variations on the same theme or two contrasting ones. In Two Lovers at Table, a man stares lustfully at a young woman. She gives us a knowing smile, and a brothel-keeper waits in the background. This is a man succumbing to erotic temptation and being exploited by women. But there is less certainty about A Woman Playing Cards with Two Peasants. In it, a woman reaches for her winnings from a male opponent. It may be that she has tempted him into a game of cards but the deceit could be working the other way: perhaps he allowed her to win in the hope of gaining her favour.

The latter interpretation suggests that one painting illustrates the deceit of men, its pair the deceit of women. But if we see the woman as the trickster in both, then each must be a warning to men about manipulative women.

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