The Fortune Teller

Pietro Paolini1603/1681

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
Auckland, New Zealand

In The Fortune Teller Pietro Paolini demonstrates many of the lessons he absorbed from studying Caravaggio, including the strong contrasts of light and shadow, focus on realism and great attention to detail. In this painting, the foibles of human folly are displayed for our enjoyment, the hand gestures helping us to interpret its meaning.

The two central crossed palms are open to the viewer. One is the lined hand of the fortune teller, who has been seated for the purpose on a studded leather chair. The other hand belongs to a young girl, elegantly dressed with feathers and pearls in her hair, the long ringlets falling over her shoulders denoting her unmarried state. She gazes enquiringly into the eyes of the gypsy, whose expression is partially masked by the deep shadows falling across her face. She, too, has pearls in her hair, and a string of bright coral beads around her neck. The girl points with her other hand to the young man behind her, who stands with a rather large hand on his hip, elegantly dressed in shades of brown. Gazing in anticipation, he holds the forefinger of his right hand between his lips, wondering if his ruse will work.

This is a favourite theme used by many artists – a fortune teller tries to persuade a gullible young woman to accept the amorous advances of her suitor.

See more detail about this artwork


  • Title: The Fortune Teller
  • Creator: Pietro Paolini
  • Creator Lifespan: 1603 - 1681
  • Creator Nationality: Italy
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Birth Place: Lucca, Italy
  • Date Created: 1603/1681
  • Physical Dimensions: w1702 x h1080 mm (Without frame)
  • Artist biography: Pietro Paolini was born in Lucca, Italy in 1603. In 1619, Paolini’s father sent him to study under Angelo Caroselli in Rome. His artistic formation was also influenced by the circle of Italian and, especially, northern European followers of Bartolomeo Manfredi, who were active in Rome between 1620 and 1630. Around 1628 he went to Venice for two years. The effects of this visit can be seen in his later religious works and also in his history paintings. Paolini returned to Lucca in 1631, where he created an original style painting cabinet pictures, often on musical or allegorical themes. He died in 1681.
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Mr Norman B Spencer, 1961
  • External Link: Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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