La Tour was a 17th century French Baroque painter who specialised in candlelit scenes such as that depicted in The Dice Players. Both he and his family died in an epidemic in 1652 – the painting in question being very probably his last work. He was soon forgotten to history, until after World War II, when a revival of interest began.
His works, though, were difficult to pin down and/or identify. The Dice Players, for example, was left to Stockton Borough by a local resident in 1930, and nothing much was thought of it at the time. The importance of the canvas was not realised until the 1970s, when it was properly identified.
[N.B. The painting has been loaned out to various galleries of late – e.g. the Shipley in
Gateshead – but will presumably be reinstated at on its
re-opening in the Summer of 2012] Preston Hall Museum
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