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Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Giuseppe Arcimboldo
Self-Portrait - Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Born: 1527; Milan, Italy

Died: 1593; Milan, Italy

Field: painting

Nationality: Italian

Art Movement: Mannerism (Late Renaissance)

Genre: portrait

Giuseppe Arcimboldo was an Italian Renaissance painter known for his intricate paintings, which combined inanimate or found objects into a portrait that would resemble the portrait subject. At the age of 22, Arcimboldo received a commission to paint stained glass windows, and later received other commissions to paint frescoes and design tapestries for Cathedrals in Spain. In 1562, he became the court painter to Ferdinand I of Vienna, and later for Maximilien II and his son Rudolph II of Prague. At this time, he was also employed as the court decorator and costume designer.

Most of Arcimboldo’s remaining works are of collected objects, which have been assembled to resemble people. He used fruits, flowers, vegetables, fish, and books, and other things, (among them slabs of meat), and arranged them in such a way as to not only resemble a person, but the person’s resemblance as well. Due to his strange rendition of the human figure, there is a debate among art critics as to whether or not Arcimboldo’s paintings are the work of a deranged mind. A more likely explanation, however, is that the paintings are a product of the Renaissance era in which he lived, which was fascinated with riddles, puzzles, and the bizarre. If this was the case, then Arcimboldo’s strange depictions were only just catering to the tastes of the time.

Many of his works were taken from Prague during the Thirty Years War by the invading Swedish army, and Arcimboldo was almost completely lost to history. His works were only just rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century by the Surrealist painters, including Salvador Dali, who were heavily influenced by the artist’s unique style.

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