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The Fortune-tellerEnlarge image

The Fortune-teller, c. 1620

Simon Vouet
French, 1590 - 1649
oil on canvas
120 x 170.2 cm; 144 x 193.5 x 9.1 cm (framed)
Purchased 1957
National Gallery of Canada (no. 6737)

In Rome, Vouet was inspired by the example of Caravaggio (1571-1610) and his followers, a diverse group of Italian, French and Netherlandish painters. Their work was marked by chiaroscuoro, the sharp contrast of light and shadow used to strongly model form. In Vouet's hands, the result is more theatrical than natural. Genre scenes - subjects drawn from daily life, as opposed to the grand themes of mythology or religion - were favoured topics. The woman to the left turns to us, smiling. A dumb show of gesturing hands and conspiratorial glances tell the story: the fortune-teller, a stock character assumed to cheat her clients, is herself being robbed.

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