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Giuseppe Arcimboldo

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Giuseppe Arcimboldo

*  1527 Mailand
† 1593 Mailand


Giuseppe Arcimboldo doubtlessly counts among art history’s most famous painters. His portraits, composed of elements such as flowers, fruits or books, have achieved international renown.
Giuseppe Arcimboldo was born son of the painter Biagio Arcimboldo in Milan in 1527. After initial activity in his father’s studio, Giuseppe Arcimboldo followed a call to the emperor’s court in Prague in 1562. Until 1587 Giuseppe Arcimboldo remained in his service. He was in charge of portrait painting, but also made drawings of festivities and ceremonies.
During his days at the court, Giuseppe Arcimboldo made his most famous works. In 1563 he painted the series "Four Seasons", of which only the allegories "Summer" and "Winter" (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum) are still in existence today. The classical method of the personification of abstract ideas was picked up and executed by Giuseppe Arcimboldo in a bizarre manner: He did not render the seasons as full figures in respective posture and with belonging attributes, he illustrated them as profile portrait heads, arranged of vegetable elements. In 1566 he made the series "Four Elements" in a similar manner. Also the plates "The Librarian" and "The Gardener" count among the portraits that Giuseppe Arcimboldo composed of still life elements, doubtlessly, they belong among his main works. Text sources and occasionally added iconographic details show that Giuseppe Arcimboldo made these unique allegories to praise the House of Habsburg.
In 1587 Giuseppe Arcimboldo returned to Italy and settled in his hometown Milan where he died in 1593.