Giuseppe Arcimboldo was an Italian painter born in 1526 in Milan. His father, Biaggio, was an artist and, like him, Giuseppe started his career designing stained glass windows and frescos when he was 21.
At the age of 36, he became the court painter for Ferdinand I at the Hapsburg Court in Vienna, later moving to Prague, where we worked for Maximilian II and his son, Rudolf II. During this time, he also painted various religious subjects and a series of coloured drawings of exotic animals in the imperial menagerie.
Alongside his more conventional career, he also had a more creative outlet for his imagination. He is famous for painting a series of human heads, made up entirely of objects, such as: fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish and books.
These painting were admired by his contemporaries and are still a source of fascination today.
From a distance, the portraits look like normal representations of people. But on closer inspection, it becomes apparent that the whole image is made up of a series of objects. These objects were not chosen at random, they were selected as a commentary on society at the time. One of his paintings, called 'The Librarian', features objects that represented the book culture at the time, and was seen as a criticism of those involved.
He died in Milan in 1593, after retiring from his service in Prague. His work can be found in galleries across Europe, in Venice and Innsbruck, in the Louvre Gallery in Paris and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
'The Four Seasons' is a set of four paintings produced between 1563 and 1573. He offered the set to Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor in 1569
Spring is represented a woman made up of a wide variety of flowers, with her head facing left. The skin of her face and lips are rose petals and buds, her hair is made up of a colorful bouquet of flowers. Her eyes are created from belladonna berries. She has a necklace of daisies aroud her neck and her body is covered in leaves of different shapes.
Summer shows a woman facing to the right and made up of fruits and vegetables. Her hair and upper lip are made of cherries. Her cheek is made of a peach, her nose a cucumber, her ear is an aubergine (eggplant) and her eyebrow is made from an an ear of wheat. Her dress is all made of straw, with an artichoke decorating her chest.
Autumn features a man's face, with rough features, looking to the left. The neck is made up of two pears and some vegetables. His head is sticking out of a vat, held together with willow branches. His face is made from apples and pears, particularly the cheek and nose. His chin is a pomegranate, his ear is a mushroom, with a fig-shaped earring. His lips and mouth are made of chestnuts. His hair is made up of bunches of grapes and his hat is a pumpkin.
Winter is the face of an old man, whose skin is a gnarled trunk. The imperfections and grain in the representing the wrinkles of old age. His beard, is composed of small branches and roots and his mouth is made from two mushrooms. His eye is a black hole in the log and his ear is made from a broken branch. His hair is a tangle of branches, with a series of small leaves at the back. A lemon and orange are hanging on a branch from the man's chest, as they are the only winter fruits in Italy.