Giuseppe Arcimboldo & His Fruity Faces

On October 2, 2015 by Tim Newman

Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Rudolf II of Habsburg - Vertumnus Small Edit

Giuseppe Arcimboldo is famous for painting portraits out of fruits, vegetables, and whatever else took his fancy.

As you will see from the standard of his art, he was very talented, if a little unusual.

In these modern times, where strangeness is constantly on tap, we all take surrealism for granted; we’re all at ease with people being pretty left of field where art is concerned.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, however, was born in the 1520’s, which was almost four centuries before Dali’s birth. He was well ahead of the curve of oddities.

Self portrait:

Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Self Portrait

Arcimboldo was born in Milan, and like his father before him, his career began designing stained glass and frescoes for cathedrals.

In 1562, in his late 30’s, he became court portrait painter for Ferdinand I at the Habsburg court in Vienna; he also did a spot of interior design and created costumes for the court.

His religious art has all disappeared into the ether, but thankfully for us, his odd vegetable portraits have survived into modern times.

One of his most famous works, The Librarian (below), rather than being a random collection of objects made into a face, actually made a political point.

The painting was meant to criticise the book culture of the time, where rich people would collect books for their own sake, rather than to actually read them.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo - The Librarian

FYI, the beard is made of fox tails, which were used by librarians as dusters.

Some scholars in the past have argued that Arcimboldo might have had a couple of screws loose.

Now, it is generally accepted that his work fits neatly with Europe’s interest in puzzles and riddles at that time.

Arcimboldo was very thoughtful about the objects he used, they weren’t anywhere near as random as they appear to a layperson.

Each object is symbolic and makes some kind of point or reference, but only if you are tuned into 16th century culture (which, sadly, I am not).

His work is now classified as Mannerist, a brief stylistic fashion influenced by High Renaissance, which depicts close relationships between humans and nature.

After spending many years in Prague working for the royal court, Arcimboldo retired to Milan where he died in 1593.

Take a look at some more of his incredible paintings below:

Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Portrait Of Adam Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Winter Giuseppe Arcimboldo - The Waiter Giuseppe Arcimboldo - The Greengrocer Giuseppe Arcimboldo - The Four Seasons In One Head Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Spring Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Rudolf II of Habsburg - Vertumnus Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Reversible Head Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Flora Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Fire Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Earth Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Autumn Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Air





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