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Dogs Playing Poker

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Where exactly did "Dogs Playing Poker" come from? They've got beer, cigars and a few decks of cards. No
one can quite explain why men love them as much as they do, but bachelors everywhere, including noted ladies'
man Sam Malone, have proudly displayed "Dogs Playing Poker."

But where did this image come from? Was there actually a group of dogs who played poker? Did one of the great masters take a break from painting bowls of fruit or throwing paint at the canvas to give us this treasure?

Dust off your old art history book, flip to the section on Renaissance art and you'll find a painting that looks a lot like the dogs, only it's "People Playing Poker." Actually, it's Georges de La Tour's 1647 painting titled "The Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds," which eventually inspired the better-known version with the dogs. He also painted another, "The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs," which would also be mimicked by the dogs.

As you can imagine, old Georges didn't have much of a sense of humor living in 17th century France. His paintings were meant as a commentary on the vanity of the upper classes, though they look more like boring portrayals of a bunch of people playing cards.

Fast forward about 230 years and meet a turn-of-the-century artist, druggist and sign maker by the name of
Cassius Marcellus Coolidge. He replicated La Tour's original image, replacing the people with the humanistic dogs we all know and love. Coolidge began the dog series around 1873 and sold reprints to cigar companies as advertisements.

Though you may think of it as a singular work of art, "Dogs Playing Poker" is actually a series of paintings. There are different poker scenes, such as "A Bold Bluff" and "A Friend in Need," as well as others depicting the canine gamblers in entirely different settings, such as a racetrack and a ballpark. "A Friend in Need" shows a bulldog cheating with the ace of clubs, the very same card La Tour's cheat conceals behind his back.

Coolidge's dogs have become some of the most replicated images in American popular culture, appearing on everything from postcards and calendars to mouse pads and computer games. Last year ESPN recreated the scene using real dogs in a commercial for its football coverage.

Though Coolidge's work is considered a classic piece of Americana, it generally hangs on the walls of bachelor pads, dentists' waiting rooms and local sports bars. La Tour's version, on the other hand, hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

But with over 100 years of worldwide commercialization, the Dogs have probably generated millions of dollars and
achieved fame that La Tour's aristocrats never knew. And besides, what red-blooded heterosexual male would hang out at the Louvre instead of his local sports bar? It looks like the dogs are holding all the cards. Check some of the dogs playing poker pictures below.

Dogs Playing Poker

Dogs Playing Poker

Dogs Playing Poker

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