Knife-Grinder and Fortune Teller

Giacomo Francesco Cipper, called il Todeschini

Photo: UMJ/N. Lackner

Giacomo Francesco Cipper, called il Todeschini (1664–1736)

Knife-Grinder and Fortune Teller

Oil on canvas

Inv. no. 40

Those in the dark – the outcasts


Despite all difficulties and dangers many people of the early modern period voluntarily embark on their journeys, others are compelled to a life on the road for reasons of poverty. They are called vagrants, beggars or travelling people. This army of the poor live, despised and vilified, at the margins of society. All of them are forced into a miserable life that more or less inevitably drives them into illegality. These outcasts form a kind of parallel society which fascinates many artists. Jakob Franz Zipper, a native of Feldkirch in Vorarlberg, spent most of his life in Milan as Giacomo Francesco Cipper. He knew how to assert himself successfully on the market with his numerous depictions of the lives of the lower classes and fringe groups.


In this painting he shows a family of scissors grinders which has set up a mobile workshop at the roadside. At the same time, however, they are reviled as fraudsters, trying to cheat the somewhat naive-looking peasant lad in the background: he is having his future read from the palm of his hand and will probably go on to buy one of the fake remedies which are touted with grand theatricality.

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