Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Alternative Name(s): Giuseppe Arcimboldi
Date of Birth: 1526/1527
Place of Birth: Milan, Italy
Date of Death: July 11, 1593
Focus: Painter
Art movement: Renaissance/Early-Surrealism
Nationality: Italian

Famous Giuseppe Arcimboldo Artwork

Giuseppe Arcimboldo Biography

Guiseppe Arcimboldo was heavily influenced by medieval stained glass. Following in his father’s footsteps, he began his artistic career by undertaking work on the stained-glass windows of cathedrals in Milan.

Arcimboldo relocated to Vienna, Austria in 1562. He became a court portraitist to Maximilian II of the Habsburg Dynasty, and to his son, Rudolf II. In 1570, Arcimboldo moved with Maximilian’s court to Prague, where he organized the inaugural pageant for Maximilian. Arcimboldo undertook various duties during his long stay in Prague, even after Rudolf II ascended the throne.

Arcimboldo returned to Milan in 1587, where he produced Vertumnus, arguably his best known work. It was a portrait of Rudolf II, but instead of the traditional human features, Arcimboldo re-interpreted Rudolf’s face and torso as being entirely composed of flowers, fruit and vegetables. He executed the painting in oil, using brilliant colors.

Arcimboldo is famous for his re-imagined and composite portraitures. At the time, they were variously described as surreal, whimsical, amusing, fantastical, bizarre, imaginative and the work of a madman. Some do appear grotesque at first sight but, on further study, they are seen to be extremely well-executed. They depict fully-observed details that speak of an in-depth knowledge of the natural world.

In his piece entitled Winter, for example, the tangled roots, leaves, bark and fruit are rendered in a highly detailed and realistic aspect. The texture is life-like, and the interplay of light and shadow is expertly executed.

Arcimboldo was a visionary who pre-dated the surrealist movement by several centuries, and his influence on future painters can be seen in the works of Dali and other surrealist painters.