footnotes for
Fortune Telling, Matchmaking and Mummery:
William Sidney Mount's Dregs in the Cup

By by Melina Kervandjian

1. The scholarship on Dregs in the Cup essentially amounts to a few brief iconographic descriptions. To date, there has been no contextualized treatment of the image and its unusual subject.

2. Alfred Frankenstein, William Sidney Mount (New York: Henry N. Abrams, 1975) p. 78.

3. Fortune telling handbooks from the late nineteenth century explain that a white cup is best for reading tea or coffee leaves. One text advises: "Pour the grounds of coffee or tea into a white cup, shake them well about it, so that their particles may cover the surface of the whole cup; then reverse it into the saucer, that all the superfluous parts may be drained off and the figures required for fortune telling form...." Daniel R. Shafer, Secrets of Life Unveiled, or Book of Fate (St. Louis: Shafer & Co., 1877) p. 110.

4. "Exhibition of the National Academy of Design," The American Monthly Magazine, 11 (May 1838): p. 472. In the nineteenth century, the painting was also exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum (1840), the Artist's Fund Society (1842), the New York Gallery (1850), and at the Washington Exhibition in aid of the New York Gallery of Fine Arts (1853).

5. Barbara Novak, "William Sidney Mount: Monumental Genre," in American Painting of the Nineteenth Century: Realism, Idealism and the American Experience (New York: Harper & Row, 1979) p. 146.

6. Daniel Wise, "The Gipsy's [sic] Revenge," The Ladies' Pearl, 2, 1 (July 1841): 2.

7. "American Gipsies [sic]," The American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge 2, 9 (1836): 372.

8. Wise, p. 3.

9. Ibid, pp. 3, 5.

10. Ibid, p. 5.

11. "American Gipsies," p. 372.

12. Marlene Sway, Familiar Strangers: Gypsy Life in America (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988) pp. 36-7.

13. The Ladies' Love Oracle offers predictions that correspond to a number of configurations achieved with a dice toss. Secrets of Life Unveiled covers a variety of fortune telling methods, including phrenology and palmistry. With regard to reading tea or coffee leaves, it offers interpretations for 32 emblems (or designs formed by the grounds). Mademoiselle Lemarchand, The Ladies' Love Oracle or, The Counselor of the Fair Sex, Being a Complete Fortune Teller (New York: Dick and Fitzgerald, 1863). Shafer, Secrets, p.110.

14. Edward P. Buffet, William Sidney Mount: A Biography (Articles from The Port Jefferson Times from Dec. 1, 1923-June 12, 1924): Chapter XIV. Buffet also identifies the young woman having her fortune told as Miss Edna Bostwick.

15. Being the Life, Natural and Supernatural, of Mrs. B.---, Otherwise Known as Madame Rockwell, The Fortune-Teller for the Past Five Years at Barnum's Museum in the City of New York (New York: J.S. Redfield, 1849).

16. Although the similarities between the two images are quite provocative, it cannot be said with certainty that Mount's painting owes a direct debt to the Reynolds' engraving. However, Mount's interest in English sources has been well documented, and engravings after Reynolds were popular and readily available during this period. Moreover, a record exists of an undated and unlocated painting by the American painter Charles Bird King (1785-1862) painted after Reynolds' The Fortune Teller. On Mount's English sources, see, for example, Donald D. Keyes, "The Sources for William Sidney Mount's Earliest Genre Paintings," Art Quarterly, 32 (Autumn 1969): pp. 259-267. The Charles Bird King painting has been recorded by the Smithsonian Inventory of American Painting.

17. Although gypsy culture is not matriarchal, women are the bread-winners for such groups, and their primary occupations involve some form of fortune telling or "dukkering." Irving Brown, "The Gypsies in America," Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, [vol.] 8, [no.] 3 (1929): pp. 145-176.

18. Wise, ``The Gipsy's Revenge,'' p. 5.

19. Caroline Gilman, Oracles from the Poets: A Fanciful Diversion for the Drawing Room (New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1844) p. 7.

20. The pointing gesture seems to be an iconographic particularity of depictions of fortune tellers.

21. Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (New York: Signet, 1982) pp. 193-96.

22. Mortimer Thomson, The Witches of New York as Encountered by Philander Doesticks, P.B. (New York: Rudd & Carlton, 1858) p. 18.

23. Ibid, pp. 18-19.