The Princess’ Future – A Fortune Teller at Venice by Pietro Longhi

A Fortune Teller at Venice by Pietro Longhi

In a retired space, not far from the harbour, the fortune teller reads palms.
For a couple of liras, she unfolds the past and predicts the near future. Renowned throughout the city of Venice, anyone who wants to challenge the unknown, knows how to find the old lady.
She wears unwanted clothes donated by princesses and queens. Her hair is undone and her voice hoarse. The fortune teller does not live a fancy life, although she could. She tried it once. The coins she acquired after seeing rich personalities from the court made her wealthy. Her husband fell seriously ill and the fortune teller saw in her desire for a luxuriant lifestyle an omen. She donated the money to an orphanage and went back to living modestly in the back street of the harbour.

Today resembles any other day. A rich courtesan is accompanied by her Ladies-in-waiting covered with veils, hats, and a mask. The princess heard that her cousin living in Rome took a trip for the express purpose of finding to Venice to find the fortune teller. The latter predicted a child soon and, a couple of months later, the cousin was with child.
This time, the princess comes with a frequent request: will she become the bride of a handsome and wealthy man soon?

As she delicately offers her hand to the fortune teller, confident that she receive but hopeful news, she smiles and takes a peak over her right shoulder. Upon glancing at the pale frail hand, the face of the fortune teller stiffens. What she reads is not promising. The princess’ future is compromised and she will never marry.
Although the princess is smiling, the fortune teller feels the hand she holds becoming colder and begin to tremble. The princess is nervous and under her confident aspect hides a soft heart and terrible fatal illness. She will not have time to marry as the tumour lodged inside her veins will spread across her entire body.

The fortune teller’s husband bearing oranges in a basket paused on his way to the merchants. He detects sadness in his wife’s stare. He is aware that in that case she must measure her words and be vague in her predictions.
He hides behind one of the marble columns and waits for the princess to leave the forum. Walking toward his wife, he embraces her with tenderness, feeling the warmth of her tears sharing both his and her cheek.

Listen while reading: Hodie Christus natus est, Giovanni Bassano

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