Pickle Puss

"Vertumnus" by Giuseppe Arcimboldo depicting Rudolf II (Holy Roman Emperor) as the Roman god of the seasons, circa 1590

When it comes to rustic chic portraiture (and when doesn’t it?), the artist which first springs to my mind is Giuseppe Arcimboldo.  Born in Milan in 1527, Arcimboldo was the son of a painter and began his own career in 1549 when he was commissioned to do stained glass window designs at the Duomo.  His traditional work, dealing with mostly conventional religious themes, has fallen into oblivion.  But it is his depiction of subjects comprised of fruit and vegetables, roots and sea creatures for which he is best remembered today.  

In 1562, Arcimboldo became the official portraitist to Ferdinand I at the Hapsberg court in Vienna and later to Maximilian II and Rudolf II in Prague.  King Augustus of Saxony, who visited Vienna in 1570 and 1573, saw the artist’s work and commissioned a copy of his “The Four Seasons” which includes Augustus’ own monarchic symbols.

His work was greatly admired by his contemporaries and is still fascinating today.  Many critics judge his art as the product of a deranged mind while others view his work in light of the Renaissance fascination with puzzles and riddles and conclude that he was simply catering to the tastes of his time.  Arcimboldo died in Milan in 1593.

Arcimboldo’s whimsical and satirical portraits, filled with color and texure, are considered by many to have been the forerunner of the Surrealist Movement.   With such a unique approach, which is most certainly rustic chic, it is obvious Arcimboldo enjoyed the fruits of his labor.

"Spring" - 1573, oil on wood, Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid

"Summer" - 1573, oil on canvas, Musee du Louvre, Paris

"Autumn" - 1573, oil on canvas, Musee du Louvre, Paris

"Winter" - 1573, oil on canvas, Musee du Louvre, Paris

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