(b. 1591, Coulommier-en-Brie, d. 1632, Roma)

The Fortune Teller

c. 1620
Oil on canvas, 150 x 239 cm
Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio

The most original tavern scenes of the Caravaggesque painters are those by Valentin. He participated vigorously in the tavern life of Rome, enjoying the company of notoriously rowdy Flemish artists. Throughout the 1620s, in his increasingly ambitious compositions, whose figures are often linked in a deep space by bold diagonals, Valentin deepened the menacing atmosphere of inn and guardhouse. And most strikingly, he developed a sense of melancholy.

In the Fortune Teller the mood is urgent, with dark undercurrents, and the soldier on the right raises his glass to the spectator, in a melancholy invitation to mistrust the future, and seize the pleasure of the passing moment.