How Giuseppe Arcimboldo Reimagined Portraiture in 16th-Century Europe

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Summer, 1563, oil on panel.WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Few artists have painted portraits so beguiling as Giuseppe Arcimboldo, an Italian painter of the late Renaissance who made a name for himself in the courts of the Holy Roman Empire by creating painstakingly detailed images of various sitters. In place of the richly detailed facial features one typically expects in portraiture, there are clever arrangements of fruits, vegetables, plants, animals, and other elements. Both psychologically acute and scientifically accurate, Arcimboldo’s portraits were celebrated by his patrons and contemporaries, expanding traditional notions about what portraiture was or ought to be. The guide below traces Arcimboldo’s career and highlights some of his most peculiar and extraordinary creations.

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