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Philips Wouwerman, Two Horsemen at a Gipsy Encampment

Key facts
Full title Two Horsemen at a Gipsy Encampment, One having his Fortune told
Artist Philips Wouwerman
Artist dates 1619 - 1668
Date made 1650-68
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 32 × 35.9 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Martin H. Colnaghi, 1908
Inventory number NG2282
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Two Horsemen at a Gipsy Encampment
Philips Wouwerman

Smoke seems to mingle with the clouds in this dramatic scene of Gypsies round a fire against a background of distant mountains and closer hills. Strong women carry babies slung round them in shawls, and here and there a man’s turban is visible. An old man tends the fire.

A woman with a baby on her back tells the fortune of a passing horseman – he stands with his hand in hers. His horse stares out at us, its eyes large and soft compared with its owner’s, who stares intently at the woman to hear his fate. Beside them a second rider sits with a rifle at the ready in case of trouble.

This is not a real scene – these are Gypsies as imagined by the artist. Wouwerman’s fictional and romanticised scenes of the rough, tough life of soldiers in battle, Gypsies and brigands were highly popular in his own time, and were eagerly collected in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

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