The Fortune Teller shares some similarities with other paintings by Longhi that explore the same subject and related themes such as quack doctors and tooth-pullers, all located in comparable settings under the arcades of the Doge’s Palace. For example The Fortune Teller at the Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice, features elements that are also found here: the figure listening to the man with the speaking tube; the cloaked gentleman seen from the back – here somewhat modified and raffishly posed; and the boy, in profile, laden with a basket of fruit; all recur in this picture with some modifications.1 The central motif of the masked couple is given prominence also in other pictures, with slight variations to costume and setting. The lady and her gallant gentleman appear, for instance, in The Quack Doctor at Ca’ Rezzonico, Venice, a work dated 1757, although in the latter the lady is unmasked.2 By contrast the lady depicted in The Perfume Seller, also at Ca' Rezzonico and generally dated to the 1750s, does wear a mask.3 One of the more unusual aspects of this painting is that the lady, with eyes sparkling, looks out directly at the viewer, and it is perhaps in this small detail that Longhi’s wit is most apparent.
1 Inv. no. 468. T. Pignatti, L’opera completa di Pietro Longhi, Milan 1974, p. 90, no. 53, reproduced in colour as plate XXXIII.
2 Inv. no. 129. Pignatti 1974, p. 95, no. 121, reproduced in colour as plate XLIV.
3 Inv. no. 127. Pignatti 1974, p. 95, no. 119, reproduced in colour as plate XLVI.
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