Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
The Gypsy Fortune Teller, c. 1595
Oil on canvas, 45 1/4 x 59 in.
(115 x 150 cm)
Pinacoteca Capitolina, Musei Capitolini, Rome
Early critics praised The Gypsy Fortune Teller for its naturalism: the convincing encounter between the calculating fortune teller and the naïve young dandy. Yet Caravaggio creates the scene from his imagination, inspired by popular plays and literature of the time that both romanticized gypsies and warned about their frauds. He shows the sly young woman running her fingers enticingly across the youth’s palm, reading his future as she looks into his eyes. Smitten by her beauty, he is blind to her deception as she slips the ring (now barely visible) off his finger. On seeing one of Caravaggio’s gypsy paintings, a contemporary exclaimed: “I don’t know who is the greater sorcerer: the woman who dissembles, or you, who painted her.”
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