Giuseppe Arcimboldo

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.

by Andrew

Reader Comments

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Sonja Norman

I love this display of using fruits/ vegetables as an art element. We did the same thing with our Pre-K/ Kindergarten class, they enjoyed it very much.


The images are lovely! My top 5 would be Ernest Hemingway, Ben Franklin, Mary Magdalene, Princess Diana, JFK

Lynne Warner

I would love to meet Beethoven-unbelievely talented composer. Would also like to meet my Mom’s mother, who died when my mother was a young child.


I’d want to meet: Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Hildegard of Bingen and St. Fiacre. It’s garden season (nearly) and they all come to mind at this time of the year.

Marie Chilcote

If I went back in time who would I like to meet? I have read so many biographies that I feel I have gone back in time and met these people. But, in order to understand who I am, maybe I’d like to meet my great, great grandmother. Thanks, that is a very thought provoking question.


What a great column–I have always loved these portraits, but never had the courage to admit it! My five dead people to meet are Franz Joseph Haydn, the Buddha, Abigail Adams, Albert Einstein, and, like a previous poster, Julia Child.

Erin C.

That was very interesting – thanks for sharing! What cool paintings. I’d like to read more about Giuseppe Arcimboldo – maybe a biography. I would like to sit down with Jesus, Grace Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock, Al Capone, Marie Curie, and Anne Boleyn. How’s that for a weird group of people?!

Dorothy Hayes

First time I have seen anything by Hieronymus Bosch. Very interesting. I would like to be involved in solving a mystery with Miss Marple and have lunch with Helen Hayes.

Bev Nan Murphy

Oh my! Every time 5 beautiful things appear, I become more enlightened and delighted.
What fun he must have had just within his own head. Throwing away all the religious, man made trappings, I’d love to have had a cup of tea with Jesus, on a bench in the Boston Public Gardens in springtime, add myaybe a biscotti and can you imagine, just being able to have a chat with the gentleman! Wow!

Joyce Sigler

Here is an interesting tidbit, you two. Google Shingo, Japan. The Tomb of Christ is reported to be there! Might be an interesting field trip!

Margaret Miller

Well, you have to admire his imagination. You guys always present us with beautiful food for thought. Thank you.