Venezia header: Piazza San Marco - Riva degli Schiavoni

FORTUNE TELLERS, Palm Readers

... and Astrologers in St. Mark's Square

In a lively situation as Carnival of Venice was, how could you not have this category of profiteers?

Of course there must have been plenty, they could be found on the public markets all over Italy, so why not in the the main Carnival square? Gullible people are everywhere!

Since I couldn't decide which image would better fit the idea, I am putting all the ones I found worthy of showing in this page.

One interesting detail I have found that shows up in most images is the long tube used to communicate with ... the client.

I imagine the basic idea was of delivering "the word" to only that person, so nobody else could listen to it, but … was it also because of the plague that now and then was hitting Europe?

Or maybe it was a way of adding some "magic atmosphere" to the fortune teller voice?

Haven't found anything regarding it, sorry.

Palm reading example image

INGANNO LUSINGHEVOLE - Flattering Deception

by Giovanni Grevembroch - 1731-1807

Astrologer, Fortune Teller, whatever she can do just to get some money out of these suckers.

She uses this long cane to transmit her message (and make it more magic?) talking about planets and stuff. Nothing so really different of how it works nowadays.


The Fortune Teller usually ends up her predictions with a sort of disclaimer:

"Gl'Astri il mirar non dà cosa sicura:
Evidenza non ha, chi congettura."

"Looking at the Planets
doesn't give a sure result:
There is no proof, only speculation."

Giovanni Grevembroch: "Inganno Lusinghevole"
pen, ink & watercolor (18th century)

LA STROLEGA - The Astrologer

by Gaetano Zompini - 1700-1778

Sort of a sorceress, but a benevolent one, she reads the good books and makes predictions to who wants to know about his/her future.

Unmarried girls are the preferred ones, but as we can tell from the image also old ladies and men.


"Son qua chi vol la strolega mi crio;
Per veder de becar qualche traireto,
Massime ale putazze da mario."

"Who wants the fortune teller,
here I am, I scream;
To try to make some small change,
Especially from the marriageable girls."

This Astrologer setup is the perfect one here:

  • St. Mark's Square, quite in the middle
  • small stage and chair: so the Astrologer can work from a vantage point, and comfortable
  • all the right instruments to deliver her wisdom: book with planets & stuff, long cane for the "personal and magical predictions".
Gaetano Zompini: "La Strolega"
engraving (1785)

LA CINGANA - The Gipsy

by Francesco Bertelli - late XVI century

Going deeper into Carnival here as this "Gipsy" is very likely a man in gypsy's clothes to take advantage of all these ladies that can't leave their house (unmarried girls?).

The arrow is a sign of hitting her heart, a cheap simbology for who needs to believe.


"Da cingare Costei merca ventura
c' averla in don da un maschio non si cura"

"From a gipsy She pays to know her destiny
that she doesn't mind to receive it
from a male" (in female gipsy clothes)

Francesco Bertelli: "La Cingana"
Il Carnevale Italiano Mascherato - engraving (1642)

L'INDOVINA - The Guesser

by Pietro Longhi - 1700(2)-1785

The Carnival symbology abunds in this painting, as much as all traditional elements of the Fortune Tellers of that time:

  • the hand reading
  • the long communicating cane
  • the stage with the chair where the Fortune Teller can dominate

As an extra element we have the poor girl trying to take advantage of the situation, selling some fruit. The Indovina's daughter, I would guess.

One tidbit: the lady her client who seems to express: "Aw, c'mon, who do you think I am to believe this stuff here!".


Pietro Longhi: "L'Indovina"
oil painting (18th century)

L'ASTROLOGO - The Male Astrologer

by Francesco Maggiotto - 1738-1805

Just to make sure that Fortune Telling - this Heavenly Gift - was not a woman-only skill, we have here a Male Astrologer.

I just liked the image, I didn't put it here to make a point.

Young, long curly hair, sort of a hippy, and female looking / gipsy as a Fortune Teller is expected to be.

He has all the right tools, and the right kind of client: a young woman, definitely poor class, we can tell from the fact she wears no shoes.

How come these young ladies are so keen to know their future, anyways?

Maybe is their potentially lucrative marriage their only choice for their future (with the Monastery ...) since they were born.

Francesco Maggiotto: "L'Astrologo"
etching and engraving (c. 1765)

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