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Pietro Longhi, A Fortune Teller at Venice

Key facts
Full title A Fortune Teller at Venice
Artist Pietro Longhi
Artist dates 1701 - 1785
Date made about 1756
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 59.1 × 48.6 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Inscribed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1891
Inventory number NG1334
Location Room 39
Collection Main Collection
A Fortune Teller at Venice
Pietro Longhi

Fortune tellers were a popular attraction during the Venetian Carnival, celebrated during the 40 days of Lent. The one here is reading the palm of a fashionable lady; a fruit seller with a full basket stops to watch and a masked figure leans forward for a closer look. One woman, however, stares intensely towards us.

Longhi has placed the scene in one of the arcades of the Doge’s Palace. The inscription on the pillar probably refers to Francesco Loredan, who was elected Doge of Venice in 1752. On the wall behind, another inscription relates to the election of a priest for the parish of San Trovaso. Compared to the muted background, the foreground has plenty of patterns and textures, like the fortune teller’s embroidered skirt and her client’s lace shawl and flowing dress.

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