Arcimboldo : visual jokes, natural history, and still-life by Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann

By Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann

In Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s most famed work, grapes, fish, or even the beaks of birds shape human hair. A pear stands in for a man’s chin. Citrus culmination sprout from a tree trunk that doubles as a neck. every kind of average phenomena come jointly on canvas and panel to collect the unusual heads and faces that represent one in every of Renaissance art’s such a lot outstanding oeuvres. the 1st significant examine in a new release of the artist at the back of those striking work, Arcimboldo tells the singular tale in their creation. 

Drawing on his thirty-five-year engagement with the artist, Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann starts with an summary of Arcimboldo’s lifestyles and paintings, exploring the artist’s early years in sixteenth-century Lombardy, his grounding in Leonardesque traditions, and his tenure as a Habsburg court docket portraitist in Vienna and Prague. Arcimboldo then trains its specialise in the distinguished composite heads, forthcoming them as visible jokes with severe underpinnings—images that poetically demonstrate pictorial wit whereas conveying an allegorical message. as well as probing the humanistic, literary, and philosophical dimensions of those items, Kaufmann explains that they include their creator’s non-stop engagement with nature portray and normal heritage. He finds, actually, that Arcimboldo painted many extra nature experiences than students have realized—a discovering that considerably deepens present interpretations of the composite heads.

Demonstrating the formerly ignored value of those works to traditional heritage and still-life portray, Arcimboldo ultimately restores the artist’s impressive visible jokes to their rightful position within the historical past of either technology and art.

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Extra info for Arcimboldo : visual jokes, natural history, and still-life painting

Sample text

In this regard he can be said to have been prepared to take on numerous tasks at the imperial court. Prior to his coming north, however, little trace can be discovered of those specific visual elements—either the naturalistic details or their aggregation— that are found his composite paintings, not to mention their more general characteristics: their complex and witty mixture of erudition, naturalism, and entertainment, or their presentation of serious content in a seemingly joking form. While it is thus hard to imagine from the specific details of his early career how Arcimboldo arrived at his most famous inventions, some clues to their origins can be found in the milieus in which Arcimboldo worked, as well as in a consideration of his personal contacts.

59 In a painting of the Holy Family (Prague, Národní Galerie) he also shows plant forms that might otherwise seem extraneous to the subject, but which recall Leonardo’s studies. A number of paintings assigned to Girolamo Figino also reveal his emulation of Leonardo’s figure style and compositions and his use of Leonardesque nature studies. 62 Bernardino also seems to have done drawings of animals, as is suggested by his painting of a lamb held by a shepherd in his painting of the Nativity (New Orleans, Louisiana, Museum of Art).

83 Mogul paintings do represent creatures made of parts of various animals such as horses, elephants, and camels, and the resemblance with Arcimboldo might thus seem close. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that any specimens of what became a thriving genre in Mogul India could have been known to this particular European artist before the year 1563. 86 Thus it is possible that the influence went in the other direction, if the inventions did not simply occur independently of each other in both places.

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