I have a long list of dead people I’d like to meet. Call me morbid, but I love the idea of resurrecting some well-chosen individuals for a round-table discussion on art, philosophy and life. One such individual is Spanish artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo. He is not well known and his place in art history is often relegated to a mere mention sandwiched somewhere between the Renaissance and the Baroque. Sad, considering his tremendous imagination and his fearless ability to paint his fantasies.
In 1562 Arcimboldo became court portraitist to Emperor Ferdinand at the Habsburg court in Vienna. He was also the court decorator and costume designer. Arcimboldo’s flamboyance found its way into a series of beautifully grotesque paintings he did of the seasons and the elements shortly after his appointment to the court. He personified each by shaping the portraits using a variety of pertinent objects, creating a visual puzzle of hidden faces within faces or objects masquerading as human features. The resulting portraits are suprisingly modern and striking against their solid black backgrounds.
With the changing seasons very much upon our minds, I thought I’d introduce you to Spring (1563), Summer (1563), Winter (1563), Water (1566) and Vertumnus, the Roman God of the Seasons (1590).
All portraits by Giuseppe Arcimboldo: oil on panel.
If you could go back in history, who would you like to meet? Tell us in the comments section below.