“The Fortune Teller” by Georges de La Tour
“The Fortune Teller” by Georges de La Tour was painted in 1630 and re-discovered in 1960. The painting catches a moment where a young man of wealth is having his fortune told by the older woman at right.
The fortune-teller takes the coin from his hand, not only in payment but as part of the ritual in which she will cross his hand with it. Most of the women portrayed are gypsies, and after the stereotype of the time, they are depicted as thieves.
As the young man is engrossed in the fortune-telling, the woman on the left is stealing the coin purse from his pocket. Her companion in profile has a hand ready to take the purse.
The girl on the boy’s left is also in on the conspiracy, as she cuts a medal worn by the boy from its chain.
The painting’s authenticity has been questioned but is now accepted by the MET as La Tour’s work.
Georges de La Tour is better known for his religious compositions, in which the figures are illuminated by a single light source and lack the elaborate costume detail of The Fortune Teller’s characters.
The painting was discovered in a French castle in 1949. There was some doubt about its authenticity, and it remained with an art dealer until the MET purchased it in 1960.
How the painting left France became a matter of controversy in the French press in the 1960s.
Georges de La Tour
Georges de La Tour (1593 – 1652) was a French Baroque painter, who spent most of his working life in the Duchy of Lorraine, which was absorbed into France between 1641 and 1648.
He painted mostly religious scenes lit by candlelight and specialized in Chiaroscuro compositions, using sharp contrasts between light and dark.
Georges de La Tour often painted several variations on the same subjects. Also, his son Étienne was his pupil, and distinguishing between their work in versions of La Tour’s compositions is difficult.
After his death in 1652, La Tour’s work was forgotten until rediscovered in the early 1900s. Some of La Tour’s work had been confused with Vermeer when the Dutch artist underwent his own rediscovery in the nineteenth century.
Fortune-telling is the practice of predicting information about a person’s life and is associated with the methods of divination.
Divination is considered part of a religious ritual, invoking deities or spirits, while the term fortune-telling implies a less serious or formal setting.
Historically, fortune telling grew out of ancient folklore and the Renaissance magic associated with Romani people.
During the 19th and 20th century, methods of divination from non-Western cultures have also been adopted for fortune telling in western popular culture.
There is opposition to fortune telling in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism based on scriptural prohibitions against divination.
The scientific community dismisses fortune-telling as being based on superstition.
In some countries, there are a variety of laws that restrict fortune-telling and requiring the licensing or the use of terminology that avoids the term “fortune teller” in preference for terms such as “spiritual advisor” or “psychic consultant.”
Some laws outright forbid the practice in some areas of the world.
The Fortune Teller
- Title: The Fortune Teller
- Artist: Georges de La Tour
- Year: 1630
- Medium: Oil on canvas
- Dimensions: Height: 101.9 cm (40.1 ″); Width: 123.5 cm (48.6 ″)
- Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET
Georges de La Tour
- Artist: Georges de La Tour
- Born: 1593 – Vic-sur-Seille, Diocese of Metz
- Died: 1652 – Lunéville, France.
- Nationality: French
- Movement: Baroque
- Notable Works:
Georges de La Tour┃The Fortune Teller
Explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art
MET European Paintings Collection
- “Pygmalion and Galatea” by Jean-Léon
- “Saint Jerome as Scholar” by El Greco
- “Portrait of Juan de Pareja” by Diego Velázquez
- “Camille Monet on a Garden Bench” by Claude Monet
- “View of Toledo” by El Greco
- “The Musicians” by Caravaggio
- “The Death of Socrates” by Jacques-Louis David
- “The Harvesters” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder
- “Young Woman Drawing” by Marie-Denise Villers
- “The Grand Canal, Venice” by J. M. W. Turner
- “The Houses of Parliament (Effect of Fog)” by Claude Monet
- “Madame Cézanne in a Red Dress” by Paul Cézanne
- “The Fortune Teller” by Georges de La Tour
MET Modern and Contemporary Art Collection
- “Reclining Nude” by Amedeo Modigliani
- “Improvisation 27 (Garden of Love II)” by Wassily Kandinsky
- “Jeanne Hébuterne” by Amedeo Modigliani
- “The Card Players” by Paul Cézanne
- “Bathers” by Paul Cézanne
“Georges de la Tour and French Baroque Painting”
MET Greek and Roman Art Collection
MET Egyptian Art Collection
MET Asian Art Collection
- Luohan – Yixian Glazed Ceramic Sculpture
- Pillow with Landscape Scenes – Zhang Family Workshop
- Jar with Dragon
MET Ancient Near Eastern Art Collection
- Sumerian Standing Male Worshiper
- Head of a Beardless Royal Attendant – Eunuch
- Human-Headed Winged Bull (Lamassu)
MET American Wing Collection
- “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by Emanuel Leutze
- “Portrait of Madame X” by John Singer Sargent
- “Mother and Child” by Mary Cassatt
- “Fur Traders Descending the Missouri” by George Caleb Bingham
- “The Gulf Stream” by Winslow Homer
- “The Parthenon” by Frederic Edwin Church
MET Islamic Art Collection
The Fortune Teller – Painting by Georges de la Tour
MET Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas Collection
- Benin Ivory Mask
- African Face Mask – Kpeliye’ e
- Sican Funerary Mask – Peru
- Ceremonial Axe – Papua New Guinea
MET European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Collection
- “Hercules the Archer” by Antoine Bourdelle
- “Orpheus and Eurydice” by Auguste Rodin
- “Perseus with the Head of Medusa” by Antonio Canova
MET Medieval Art Collection
- “The Last Supper” by Ugolino di Nerio
- Plaque with the Journey to Emmaus and Noli Me Tangere
- Doorway from the Church of San Nicolò, San Gemini
MET Drawings and Prints Collection
- Album of Tournaments and Parades in Nuremberg
- “Canvassing for Votes” by William Hogarth
- “Christ and the Woman of Samaria” by Rembrandt
MET Costume Institute Collection
MET Arms and Armor Collection
MET Photograph Collection
MET Musical Instrument Collection
- Masterpieces of The Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET
- The MET Cloisters
- Met Breuer
- Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET
The Fortune Teller by the french painter Georges de La Tour
“Fortune-telling doesn’t reveal the future; it mirrors the present.
It resonates against what your subconscious already knows
and hauls it up out of the darkness so you can get a good look at it.”
– Charles de Lint
Photo Credit: 1)Georges de La Tour [Public domain]