Guiseppe Arcimboldo, 1527 - 1593
Arcimboldo was an Italian painter best known for
creating imaginative portrait heads made entirely of such objects
as fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, and books - that is,
he painted representations of these objects on the canvas arranged in such a way
that the whole collection of objects formed a recognizable likeness of the portrait subject.
Arcimboldo does not look like a fun person in this self portrait,
but he was skilled and imaginative in his art,
and is most famous for his "portraits" of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter:
'The Four Seasons'
Following on from my posts for Winter here
and Spring here
now here comes Summer:
This picture of Summer,
which is now in the Kunsthisorisches Museum in Vienna,
forms part of Arcimboldo's first series of the Four Seasons.
Like other pictures of Summer,
it bears the inscription "Guiseppe Arcimboldo F." on the collar of the figure.
There are only minor differences from the one he painted 10 years later in 1573,
whereas it differs more obviously from the other two 'Summer',
both with regard to composition and in the design of the head dress.
Like Spring, this picture belongs to the complete series of the Four Seasons
which is now in the Musée National du Louvre in Paris.What is said about the garlands around the Spring picture here
also applies to this one.
Both Summer and Spring are human heads in profile.
Summer consists entirely of different kinds of summer fruit and vegetables.
The glowing colours of the head stand out in bold relief against the dark background.
Also here on the broad, stiff collar he has delicately woven the words
"Guiseppe Arcimboldo - F." The F stands for fecit ("he has done it").
This is the painter's way of authenticating his work of art.On the shoulder there is the date of the painting: 1573
Summer, 1572Private collection, Berlin
Bayerische Staatsgemaeldesammlungen, Munich
This depiction of Summer is the most unusual one among the four paintings shown here.
A close study of the individual elements may reveal that
in a number of places the paint was applied rather more spontaneously.
"...perfect in his uniqueness, as are only the great".
The Air of Spring here
The order of the Seasons is full of symbolical symmetry.
There are always two matching heads in profile, one of them facing left,
the other right and expressing a special relationship between the seasons they symbolize.
The Air of Spring here
shows up the glowing colours of flowers in blossom.
Summer and Fire both share a common star as their point of reference - the sun.
In this allegory Arcimboldo depicted several different types of fire,
ranging from the small light of an oil-lamp or a candle
to the tremendous power of cannons and guns.
A flame can be kindled by striking the two pieces of steel (the nose and the ear)
against the flint which decorates the Golden Fleece.
This will light the little oil-lamp (the chin of the figure),
the bundle of spills (the moustache), the rolled-up taper candle (the forehead complete with wrinkles)
and finally the pile of firewood, whose flames surround the head like a crown.
There is hardly any other work of Arcimboldo's which is more explicit in its references to the Hapsburgs.
The neck is separated from the body by the chain of the Golden Fleece,
which was one of the most important orders of the time.
Duke Philipp of Burgundy gave it to the Hapsburgs on the day of his wedding 1429.
Like many others, he became one of the Hapsburgs through marriage.
What is even more significant is the presence of the double eagle,
the symbol of the Holy Roman Empire of which the Hapsburgs were emperors
at the time of Arcimboldo.
Finally there are the gun and the cannons. These may well have served
the purpose of emphasizing the great military power of the Hapsburgs rulers,then at war with Turkey
All images: Benedikt Taschen Verlag GmbH