Giuseppe Arcimboldo
(Milan 1525–1593)

 

winter 

 

oil on canvas
75.5 x 56.9 cm. (30.9 x 22.4 in.)
1572

 

The Klesch Collection holds a complete set of Four Seasons by Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

“Arcimboldo may rightly be regarded as a virtuoso entertainer and an artificer of fantasy, but he was surely also something more. He was a learned painter with literary aspirations who was also a scrupulous imitator of nature.” 

Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, Arcimboldo: Visual Jokes, Natural History, and Still-Life Painting, Chicago & London, 2009, p. 217.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo was born in Milan in 1527. Even though this most original 16th-century Mannerist painter is best known for his unique paintings of composite figures, he started his career designing cartoons for stained-glass windows of the Cathedral in Milan. He was court painter to three generations of Holy Roman Emperors, first to Ferdinand I (1503–1564) whom he joined in Vienna in 1562, and later to Maximilian II (1527–1576) and his son Rudolf II (1552–1612) at the court in Prague.1

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It was for Maximilian II that Arcimboldo created the first set of The Four Seasons in 1563. Arcimboldo painted several of these series that are known to have been in various royal collections, each with individual variation. This painting, depicting Winter, is part of a set of The Four Seasons, painted in 1572, and according to Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, it is currently the only full set in private hands.2 These bizarre works were greatly admired by Arcimboldo’s contemporaries and given the Renaissance fascination with riddles and puzzles, he brilliantly catered to the taste of his time.3 Testament to their enduring fascination, his works were rediscovered by 20th-century Surrealist artists such as Salvador Dalí (1904–1989) and remain a source of great interest today. Arcimboldo returned to his home town of Milan after his service in Prague, where he died in 1593.

 

Notes
1. Kathleen Kuiper, “Giuseppe Arcimboldo”, last modified 2006, accessed June 22, 2020, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Giuseppe-Arcimboldo.
2. Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, in private correspondence, 2010.
3. Luigi Salerno, La Natura Morta Italiana 1580-1805 (Rome: Ugo Bozzi Editore, 1984), n.p.
4. Giuseppe Arcimboldo, The Complete Works, “Biography,” accessed June 22, 2020, https://www.giuseppe-arcimboldo.org/biography.html.

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