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Backgammon Players
Probably by David Teniers the Younger
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Backgammon (triktrak in Dutch) was a highly popular board game in seventeenth-century Flanders, especially in taverns and drinking dens, where players would bet on the outcome. The white cube we see in the centre of the board is probably a doubling die, used to up the stakes. Gambling of this kind was often frowned upon – especially when associated, as here, with other vices such as drinking and smoking – and appears frequently in paintings of the time, often indicating moral degeneracy.

But while not entirely respectable, the game was considered by many to be a legitimate source of amusement. Here, Teniers has captured the tension at a critical moment of the game. Few counters are left on the board and the man on the right appears eager for his opponent, with the white counter, to cast the dice. All his black counters are stacked ready to be cleared – with the right throw he will be able to claim victory.

The scene in front of the hearth in the background on the right reappears in Teniers’ Christ Crowned with Thorns, also in the National Gallery’s collection.

Key facts
Artist Probably by David Teniers the Younger
Artist dates 1610 - 1690
Full title Backgammon Players
Date made probably 1640-5
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 37.5 x 56.7 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Lord Colborne, 1854
Inventory number NG242
Location in Gallery Not on display
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