The Fortune Teller is a painting by Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. It exists in two versions, both by Caravaggio, The Fortune Teller 1 is now in the Musei Capitolini in Rome), the second version, The Fortune Teller 2 from 1595 (which is in the Louvre museum, Paris). The dates in both cases are disputed.
The Fortune Teller is one of two known genre pieces done by Caravaggio in the year 1594, the other being The Cardsharps. The Fortune Teller is believed to be the earlier of the two, and dates from the period during which the artist had recently left the workshop of the Giuseppe Cesari to make his own way selling paintings through the dealer Costantino. The painting shows a foppishly-dressed boy (in the second version the model is believed to be Caravaggio's companion, the Sicilian painter Mario Minniti), having his palm read by a gypsy girl. The boy looks smugly pleased as he gazes into her face; he fails to notice that she is removing his ring as she gently strokes his hand; to his ingenuous self-satisfied gaze she returns her own, quietly mocking and sly.
Caravaggio's biographer Giovanni Pietro Bellori tells that the artist picked the gypsy girl out from passers-by on the street in order to demonstrate that he had no need to copy the works of the masters from antiquity. This passage is often used to demonstrate that the classically-trained Mannerist artists of Caravaggio's day disapproved of his insistence on painting from life instead of from copies and drawings made from older masterpieces, but Bellori ends by saying: "...and in these two half-figures [Caravaggio] translated reality so purely that it came to confirm what he said." The story is probably apocryphal - Bellori was writing more than half a century after Caravaggio's death, and it doesn't appear in Mancini or in Giovanni Baglione, the two contemporary sources who had known him - but it does indicate the essence of Caravaggio's revolutionary impact on his contemporaries - beginning with The Fortune Teller - which was to replace the Renaissance theory of art as a didactic fiction with art as the representation of real life.
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