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 end result sprout from a tree trunk that doubles as a neck. every kind of average phenomena come jointly on canvas and panel to gather the unusual heads and faces that represent certainly one of Renaissance art’s so much outstanding oeuvres. the 1st significant examine in a iteration of the artist in 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 outline 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 courtroom portraitist in Vienna and Prague. Arcimboldo then trains its specialise in the distinguished composite heads, coming near near them as visible jokes with severe underpinnings—images that poetically show 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 average historical past. He finds, in reality, 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 significance of those works to normal background and still-life portray, Arcimboldo ultimately restores the artist’s marvelous visible jokes to their rightful position within the background of either technological know-how and art.

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

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The parallels between 30 Chapter One Leonardo’s varied activities and Arcimboldo’s later work for court are so manifold and so striking that Arcimboldo could be called the Habsburgs’ Leonardo. Like Leonardo, he was a court artist who seems to have made relatively little for the imperial court of what we might usually call art, in the form of paintings—but, also like Leonardo, he did many other things. Tasks set by the court may of course have determined what an artist in its employ was supposed to do, but in comparison with all other artists active at the Habsburg court, Arcimboldo was truly protean, to echo Comanini’s description of him.

The second chapter reexamines Arcimboldo’s career at court and provides firm evidence for the dating of his composite heads and their origins in a court milieu. The third chapter lays out Arcimboldo’s connections with humanists and poets, and his own role as a humanist and poet. In chapter 4 the literary, poetic, and philosophical implications of Arcimboldo’s works are discussed, including the reasons for considering his paintings of composites as serious jokes. Chapter 5 deals with his involvement with natural history and nature painting; it presents much new evidence for his nature studies, whose analysis is the subject of chapter 6.

Several artists who may be linked to Arcimboldo demonstrate their attention to nature studies in the Leonardesque mode. For example, Melzi clearly used drawings from nature found in Leonardo’s manuscripts in his own paintings, especially for depictions of plants and flowers. Two examples may suffice. 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.

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