Arcimboldo, Giuseppe

views updated May 23 2018


ARCIMBOLDO, GIUSEPPE. Giuseppe Arcimboldo (also spelled Arcimboldi), was an Italian artist in Milan, Italy, between 1527 or 1530 and 1593. A painter, he also designed the stained glass windows for Milan's duomo. Arcimboldo's artwork, especially famous for its fragments of landscapes, flowers, herbs, vegetables, noodles, and cookware, was fashionable during the sixteenth century. His work became especially well known throughout Europe after the Austrian Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II exhibited Arcimboldo's paintings in the many residences of the Habsburg imperial family. In fact Arcimboldo's bizarre pieces and grotesque portraits pleased the Habsburg emperor so much that he appointed the Italian painter Habsburg court painter at Vienna and Prague and also made him a count palatine. Arcimboldo also created the illusionistic sceneries for the Habsburg court theater.

Arcimboldo's most famous paintings had contemporary allegorical meanings and were unique compositions of edibles and culinary objects placed together in such a way as to represent the contours or heads of cooks, innkeepers, fishmongers, and symbolic figures related to the world of arts and sciences. He was not prolific, but his paintings of fantastic heads and social satirical subjects were popular. Many surrealists, including the Spanish artist Salvador Dalí, claim Arcimboldo as a surrealistic ancestor.

Arcimboldo's paintings and drawings in Austria are in Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum, in Graz, and in Innsbruck's Habsburg Schloss Amras. In Italy his works are preserved in Cremona, in Brescia, and in Florence's Uffizi Gallery. In the United States the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut, houses some of Arcimboldo's work.

See also Art, Food in: Painting and the Visual Arts ; Italy .

Elisabeth Giacon Castleman