(b. 1571, Caravaggio, d. 1610, Porto Ercole)

The Fortune Teller

c. 1596
Oil on canvas, 115 x 150 cm
Pinacoteca Capitolina, Rome

The youth abandons his reserve, leans over towards the gypsy-woman and looks into her smiling face, as if he idolized her, and as if the woman was enticing a very willing man. We cannot be absolutely sure this picture is an original Caravaggio. Its authenticity has recently been based on two arguments. The genre-scene has been painted over a praying female saint, perhaps the Virgin Mary, and the most likely painter is the Cavaliere d'Arpino. The painting also carries the same indication of provenance from Cardinal del Monte's Collection as the Cardsharps. The same subject-matter recurs in Narcissus. In the case of this not-undisputed picture, the smooth way in which the paint is applied suggests a Caravaggesque artist of some note.