"Roulette Is Almost Invented, 1574"
Jonathan Repruntzel Unknown
This is the Museum of Depressionist Art's first acquisition of an authentic Unknown, provenance assured by the Government of India's Official Provenance Assurers, Department of Unknowns. Little is known about the life and career of Jonathan Repruntzel Unknown, other that he was either exiled to India after this painting was rejected by the Court of Wards and Liveries that had commissioned it, or invited there as a court painter by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, always one to promote the cultural side of tyranny and "give the place a little class," as he so often put it.
Unknown's sense of humor had gotten him into trouble before. His "Party Time at Bedlam Asylum," commissioned as a serious work on the consequences of a life of depravity, elicited only howls of laughter when it was first exhibited. His "House of Lords Depicted as Dogs," saw him condemned to the public stocks for a week.
The painting shown here, a masterpiece of Depressionism, is supposed to represent the British Court of Wards and Liveries. In keeping with the painterly style of the times, the members of the Court are shown as serious and judicious almost to the point of parody. Unknown's addition of the tools associated with the game of roulette— the check racks, or chip holders, on either side of the table, the scoop, the croupier's hook, the ledgers to record bets— are astonishingly prescient of a game that would not be invented for another century or two.