Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A feast for the eyes

Roman God of the seasons

Italian Renaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo was waaay ahead of his time. Consider his "composed heads" series—his unusual and very gorgeous portraits painted in the 1500s. Giuseppe was best known for creating these wildly imaginative portraits made entirely of mostly edible objects such as fruits, vegetables, fish, and also flowers and books. As a child I was utterly entranced by these odd paintings, and would stare at them for hours on end. Curiouser and curiouser. The paintings are rich in detail and very beautifully done, but still, just a little bit creepy to a wide-eyed kid. This was the dawn of new thoughts and disciplines such as botany and zoology, when artists, most notably Leonardo da Vinci—Arcimboldo’s predecessor in Milan—pursued natural studies.

One early set of Giuseppe's paintings was called The Four Elements and included Earth, Water, Fire and Air. He had a sense of humor too, and his allegorical paintings are peppered with visual puns. For example, Summer’s Ear is an ear of corn. See more of Giuseppe's works by clicking here. I think the artist represents all of the seasons in his Vertumnus painting above, but shown below are his well known"Four Seasons" portraits. They are a veritable feast for the eyes!

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