MANFREDI, Bartolomeo
(b. 1582, Mantova, d. after 1622, Roma)

Gypsy Fortune Teller

Oil on canvas, 121 x 153 cm
Institute of Arts, Detroit

Manfredi's picture has none of the theatrical charm and bright, clear light of Caravaggio's work, it seems rather a melancholy meditation on human folly and cunning. Furtive figures, wrapped in shadow, stand in a sinister Roman 'vicolo'. The dark-skinned gypsy casts a harsh spell, while her accomplice steals the youth's coins, wrapped in a handkerchief. But the gypsy, too, is fooled, for behind her a rogue robs her of a chicken, doubtless stolen, from her gown; she promises the gifts of fortune, but loses her small possessions. The painting has something of the reality of the Roman streets, where gypsies were classed with vagabonds and beggars.