The Card Players
Answer to Name This Famous Antique Game - January 2013

by Mike McLeod

At the moment, this is the most expensive painting ever sold: “The Card Players” by Paul Cezanne painted in 1892-93. It was purchased in a private sale in 2011 by the Royal Family of Qatar for between $250 million and $300 million. (Since it was a private sale, the exact amount is not known.)

Catherine Losik of Bow, New Hampshire, correctly identified this painting after she picked up a copy of Southeastern Antiquing Magazine while driving through Georgia on her way to Florida. It was also recognized by Teresa P. Bland and by Ted Carlton in Utah.

“The Card Players”
by Paul Cezanne

Paul Cezanne
(French, 1839-1906)

“The Card Players” is one of a series of five paintings by Cezanne which all feature French card players smoking pipes. The other four are in museums in London, Paris, New York and Philadelphia. This is the only one in private hands.

Paul Cezanne was born on January 19, 1839 in Aix-en-Provence in southern France. His father was a banker, and after his primary and secondary education, he sent his son to law school. Paul decided otherwise and devoted himself to art. During his career, Cezanne worked under the tutelage of the Neo-Impressionist and Impressionist painter Camille Pissaro. He also knew/painted with Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Cezanne died on October 22, 1906 of pneumonia. A few days before, he spent two hours painting in a downpour in a field.

Just for curiosity’s sake, the other paintings in the top five are:

2. $140 million, in 2006: Jackson Pollock’s “Number 5, 1948,” painted in 1948.
3. $137.5 million, in 2006: Willem De Kooning’s “Woman III,” 1952-1953.
4. $135 million, in 2006: Gustav Klimit’s “Adele Bloch-bauer I,” 1907.

Number five on the list is a toss-up, depending on how you rate a painting’s value: by what it sold for then or what that amount would be in today’s dollars. Going with its value at the time of sale, the next most expensive painting would be Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” (1895), which sold for $119.9 million in 2012. If you prefer the value (approximately) in today’s dollars, you have three paintings that would be ahead of “The Scream,” and two would be higher on the list than number 5:

*About $148 million now ($82.5 million in 1990): Vincent van Gogh’s “Portrait of Dr. Gachet,” 1890.
*About $140 million ($78.1 million in 1990): Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Bal du moulin de la Galette” (“Dance at Le moulin de la Galette,”) 1876.
*About $130 million ($104 million in 2004): Pablo Picasso’s “Garçon (boy) a la pipe,” 1905.




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