Listening to Art

03.04: Caravaggio, The Fortune Teller

Download (MP3).

Listening to Art, by William Denton.

Volume three, number four: The Fortune Teller by Caravaggio.

Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.

This is the first of a few issues devoted to the Italian master Caravaggio, who was born Michelangelo Merisi in 1571, probably in Caravaggio, the town whence he took his name.

Caravaggio moved to Rome in 1592 and began to make his way as an artist. This painting (the Italian title is La Buona Ventura) is dated around 1595, the same as The Cardsharps (which we will not be hearing). They were bought by Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte. This was an important sale that helped establish Caravaggio’s career. About the paintings, I quote from Caravaggio: A Life by Helen Langdon (p. 85):

These two works, whose brilliant colour was quite unlike anything in Roman art, and which are so humorous and direct in their portrayal of human character, and so strong in the sense of a moment seen, were deliberately provocative. In an art world dominated by large-scale frescoes, often crudely painted, and by the maniera statuina of so many sixteenth-century painters, they assert the power of a new and naturalistic art, and the pleasure of a startlingly novel subject, the tavern and street life that Caravaggio knew so well. The theme of both paintings is the same—deception and the snares that beset innocent youth.

This is a painting, oil on canvas, 151.2 cm wide by 116 cm high.

Now let’s listen to The Fortune Teller by Caravaggio, recorded at the Capitoline Museums, in Rome, on 29 May 2018.

Waveform of the field recording.

That was The Fortune Teller by Caravaggio. I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did.

For more information and links to things I’ve mentioned, please visit

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All web sites accessed as of date of publication.

Langdon, Helen. Caravaggio: A Life. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999.

Musei Capitolini. “Good Luck.” Musei Capitolini.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Caravaggio,”

⸻, s.v. “The Fortune Teller (Caravaggio),”