As Arcimboldo had promised Rudolph II, he continued topaint for the
Emperor after his final return to Milan. His pictures of that period
include one that was particularly appreciated by everyone,
especially by Rudolph himself. It is a head-and-shoulder portrait of
the Emperor, this time not in profile, showing him in the form of
Vertumnus, the ancient Roman god of vegetation and transformation.
Rudolph consists entirely of magnificent fruits, flowers and
vegetables representing the four seasons. Plants and produce of the
whole year have been gathered together "in perfect harmony", to
glorify the Emperor who rules over them like the god Vertumnus. This
picture is the crowning achievement among all the paintings that
Arcimboldo made for the glory of Rudolph II or the other Hapsburg
rulers. Nobody ever succeeded in giving a better interpretation of
the portrait than Arcimboldo's friend and contemporary Comanini,
whose poem is given here in an English translation of Geiger's
Whoever you may be, when you behold
This odd, misshapen picture which is me,
And there is laughter on your lips,
Your eyes are flashing with hilarity,
And your whole face is seized by mirth
As you discover yet another monstrous detail
In him who bears the name Vertumnus,
Being thus called in poems of the ancients
And by Apollo's learned sons;
Unless you clearly see that ugliness
Which makes me beautiful,
You cannot know that there's a certain
Ugliness more beautiful than any beauty.
There's diversity within me,
Though despite my diverse aspect, I amone.
That diversity of mine
Renders faithfully and truly
Diverse things just as they are.
Raise your eyebrows now and frown,
Listen hard with concentration,
Lend your ear to what I say
That I may entrust you, friend,
With the secret of new art.
In the beginning there was chaos,
Shapeless, void and dark the Earth,
Even heaven was mixed with fire,
Fire with heaven, and heaven with fire.
Air and water intermingled
With each other and with Earth,
Which, in turn, was mixed with
Fire And with Air and Water, too:
There was chaos without order,
Without shape and without form.
Then came Jove and raised his arm
Lifting up the Earth above the water.
Air was now upon the water,
Water round the Earth,
And Fire round the Air:
Each surrounded by the other,
Firmly sealed and closely knit,
Dryness, moisture, warmth and cold,
Like four rings surrounding firmly
Many precious, costly stones.
Heaven, though, received the honour
Of the noblest of all thrones,
Ruling, dominating, gath'ring
All the other elements.
Thus, from shapeless chaos.
From confused and formless waters.
Like a new-born animal.
Noble, perfect, full of life,
Born as of a fertile womb,
Into being came this world.
And its face is called Olympus,
Eyeing us with many stars,
Air's the chest, and Earth the belly.
Mountain valleys are its feet,
And the soul which warms and quickens
And enlivens this great body
Is the element of Fire;
Clothed in produce of the earth,
Wearing plants and fruit and grass.
How then, do you think, my friend,
Did the painter go about it,
How did Arcimboldo paint me,
The inventive genius,
With a brush that far surpasses
That of Zeuxis or of those
Who created veiled deceptions,
Delicately beautiful, I
n their contest for great fame?
Boldly imitating Jove,
Joyfully he set to work,
Went through fields and woods, and chose
A thousand flowers, thousand fruits,
Set to weave this cheerful mixture,
This great product of creation,
Into an artistic garland
Of his own, and himself creating limbs.
Cleverly deceiving you.
Come, behold my temples.
And admire that which makes them beautiful
Colourfully decked they are
By so many ears of corn,
Spiky, full of Junius' pollen,
Golden, ripened by the sun,
Finally cut down and reaped
By the farmer's mighty scythe,
That sharp sword in his clenched fist.
Fields of corn are thus prostrated,
Golden millet which in winter
Serves the shepherd in the mountains
As a sweet delicious meal
For his wife and for his children.
In his humble little hut.
Grapes are hanging from my temples,
Softly contoured, warmly painted,
Gently stroked by rays of sunshine,
By the sun's great brush conceived,
Painted red and painted yellow,
Reaped and harvested at last
In Lyaeus golden month.
See how this arrangement decks me,
Decks my temples high and round,
Sumptuously and beautifully
Like that famous Thracian 's features,
Who adorned his kingly head
With a long and twisted ribbon,
Twisted like a thousand loops,
He whose eyes would glow with ardour
And with lofty royal pride.
Behold that summer fruit, the melon:
When the dog is barking at the sky,
When the lion in the mountains
Draws deep breath and roars out loud
So that here below we hear him,
In our houses, hostels, caves,
By the river, at the spring,
Then the melon will refresh us,
Will revive our dried-up throats,
With its sweetness and its moisture
It revives a noble king,
As it does a lowly peasant
And a nymph's large company,
Also thirsty warriors
Are refreshed by its sweet juice.
Look, how with its furrowed pattern,
With its tough and wrinkled skin,
It produces wrinkles on my
Forehead so that I am like
The old ploughman in the mountains,
Whom Bohemia's soil sustains
And his labour hard and toilsome,
Twixt the ice and stone and wood,
Sombre, dark and oddly shapen.
Behold the apple and the peach:
See how my two cheeks are formed,
Round and full of life.
Also have a good look at my eyes,
Cherry-coloured one and mulberry the other
Though there may be no resemblance
With Narcissus, yet I share
With this healthy, cheerful brother
Both his youthful, joyful vigour
And his potent manfulness,
For his eyes would gleam and sparkle
With the harvest of the grapes,
When he wined and dined, enjoying
Till the wineskins were all empty.
Look at those two hazelnuts:
With their green and empty skins,
Side by side above my lip,
Though they're useless otherwise,
Yet they render service as two sides
Of a nicely trimmed moustache.
As a complement to these
There's a chestnut's spiky case
Clinging to my chin and making
It a perfect miracle
Of adornment, fitting for a man.
Ha, where is Iberia's master
Who so aptly moulds and fashions
All that wool upon his head,
Long and sharp and fine to touch,
Which he often with his fingers
Twists and strokes till,
Like an eyelash, it points upward?
Where then is he who might want
To compete with this new beard?
Also, friend, I beg you, take
Notice of this fig which ripened,
Then burst open and now dangles
From my ear, so that you may
Well mistake me for a little
Frenchman who, as he is standing
By the Seine, puts bright pearls
Upon his earlobe, and, thus proudly decked,
Struts around, as pretty now
As a little flower, breathing
Loveliness and charm and splendour.
Finally behold this sash - not to
Mention all the other strong and
Handsome limbs - woven, so it seems, from
Many flowers, fine as gold,
Draped around my chest and my right shoulder
Thus you'll surely value and appreciate
As a loyal vassal me,
As a warrior proud and strong,
Riding boldly, cheerfully and proudly
On my path to victory in battle,
Holding forth triumphantly my
Colours and his coat of arms.
What uplifts me even more, though.
Is the way in which I proudly
And with joy aspire unto heaven,
Like Silenus, that young Grecian
Who delighted his good king,
Who was honoured, too, by Plato.
Though my aspect may be monstrous,
I bear noble traits within.
Hiding thus my kingly image.
Tell me now if your are willing
To discern what I conceal:
Then my soul I will reveal.
1590 or 1591
Oil on wood, 68 x 56 cm
Skoklosters Slott, Balsta, Sweden
Oil on wood, 73 x 56 cm
Private collection, Paris
Apart from Vertumnus, Arcimboldo
also painted Flora the Nymph in Milan in 1588, followed by a second
version two years later. The first picture bears the inscription on
the other side: "La flora dell' Arcimboldo". According to B. Geiger,
this painting was "praised by many spirited people in Latin and with
Don Gregorio Comanini welcomed it with the following madrigal:
Son'io Flora o
Se fior, come di Flora
Ho col sembiante il riso? E s'io son
Come Flora e sol fiori?
Ah non fiori son'io; non io son Flora.
Anzi son Flora, e fiori. Fior mille, una sol Flora;
Vivi Fior, viva Flora.
Pero che i fior fan Flora, e Flora i fiori.
Sai come? I flori in Flora
Cangio saggio Pittore, e Flora in fiori.
We only have the second picture
now, which, according to Mandiargues, is a "high-quality later
replica" of the original. He praises the "pure beauty of the figure,
the subtle way in which the shades of colour have been attuned to
one another so harmoniously". A well-proportioned, handsome face
looks at us from the darkness of the background. The delicately
coloured petals subtly range from white to pink, and the fine
transitions between light and dark highlight the youthful face of a
woman whose hair consists of a multitude of colourful flowers that
frame her head like a wreath or a crown. Round her neck she is
wearing a collar consisting of white blossom which is livened up by
a number of yellow dots, the stamens of the flowers. This collar
separates the leaves that form her dress from her neck and face. The
woman's chest is adorned by a yellow lily, traditionally a symbol of
The way in which the various heads in
Arcimboldo's pictures are composed of certain elements confirms
Fonteo's idea that the Empereor rules over the seasons and the
elements. Thus, the harmony of the fruit or the animals that make up
a head symbolizes the harmony which exists under the benevolent rule
of the Hapsburgs. Similarly, there is also harmony between the
elements and the seasons, symbolizing peace under the rule of
Maximilian II. Always based on the principle that similar things
must be related, Fonteo talks at great length about the harmonious
relationship between elements and seasons. Thus, both seasons and
elements are linked to one another and share the same properties.
"Summer is hot and dry like fire, winter is cold and wet like water,
both the air and spring are hot and wet, and autumn and the earth
are cold and dry." Fonteo goes even further in his interpretation.
Proserpina, the goddess of winter, and Neptune, the god of water,
are friends, and that is why winter and water belong together. In
spring it is the air that makes the flowers blossom. Summer and fire
have a common planet, the sun; earth and autumn have the moon. The
seasons and the elements enter into a number of dialogues in
Fonteo's poem, extolling and glorifying the monarch. And if we take
a close look at Arcimboldo's pictures, we can see something of these
dialogues in them, too. The various elements and seasons are all in
profile and seem to be facing one another: Winter and Water, Spring
and Air, Summer and Fire, Autumn and Earth.
Each series also contains a certain
symmetry. Two heads are always looking to the left and two to the
right. But the correspondences go even further. The world consists
of the elements, and whoever rules over the elements will control
the world, and so the Emperor will break the power of the Turks. The
four seasons return every year, thus symbolizing the eternal order
of nature as well as the idea that the Hapsburgs will reign forever.
This also explains the shape of the heads in Arcimboldo's pictures.
However, we must bear in mind that there had already been a long
tradition of depicting the four seasons in the form of heads. Roman
coins in particular used to have decorated heads on them, and there
must have been Roman coins in Rudolph II's coin collection.
According to Arcimboldo and Fonteo, however, there was one
particular classical source for these heads: an ancient legend
connected with the construction of the Jupiter temple on the
Capitol. The tale is told by Dionysios of Halicarnassos - and also,
in a slightly different version, by Livy - that the builders of the
Jupiter temple suddenly hit upon a head that kept bleeding, but,
according to Livy, still had its facial features completely intact.
A soothsayer explained that the place where the head was found was
to be the "head" (caput) of all Italy. Hence the name Capitolium and
the Latin word capita for "heads". Livy says that this place was to
be the centre of the empire as well as the "head" (caput) or capital
of the whole world. Thus the heads of the seasons and of the
elements stand for the eternal rule of the House of Hapsburg.
According to Fonteo, the political
significance of these pictures is further emphasized by the large
number of Hapsburg symbols, such as the peacock and the eagle as
part of Air. The element air is ruled by these two animals. Fire,
too, can be shown to have such a double meaning. On the one hand,
the element fire is symbolized by the chain of the Golden Fleece, a
chain which consists of flintstone and forged steel which can be
knocked together to light a fire. But on the other hand, there was
also the Order of the Golden Fleece - a Hapsburg order. And the same
picture contains a number of obvious military references.
Earth is another picture which is full of Hapsburg symbols, such as
the lion's hide of Hercules and the skin of a ram. The lion, says
Fonteo, is in fact a symbol of the Kingdom of Bohemia, one of the
provinces that belonged to the Hapsburgs. There may also be some
symbolical significance of the precious pearls of Water, as well as
antlers and a number of other details.
The Four Seasons contain similar references. Winter, for example, is
shown to be wearing a coat which is adorned by a sign symbolizing
forged steel and also by a capital letter M. Thus we can safely
assume that the forged steel of the Golden Fleece is meant and that
the M stands for Maximilian. And if, in another painting of Winter
which was meant for the Elector of Saxony, Arcimboldo included the
coat of arms of Saxony, then it seems sensible to interpret the
picture in the same way. But, as Fonteo explains, winter also has a
For the Romans winter was always
the beginning of the year, and they therefore called it caput anni.
Caput, however, also means "head". This means that if a depiction of
winter can be directly related to Maximilian, then this is a pun on
winter as the caput anni, the beginning of the year, as well as
Maximilian as the caput (head) of the whole world. In fact
Maximilian II took part in the festive procession of that year,
1571, dressed up as "winter".
DaCosta Kaufmann emphasizes the close link between Arcimboldo's
pictures and his designs for processions. Both his paintings and his
feasts are allegories of the power of the Emperor and the harmony of
the world under his benevolent rule.
Andre Pieyre Mandiargues has his own attitude towards the various
attempts to "understand" or "comprehend" Arcimboldo's art: "I have
not been seized by the mad desire to classify everything; in my
opinion, if one loves and respects the history of art, one should be
quite happy for it to remain a little obscure." Mandiargues believes
that Arcimboldo is "perfect in his uniqueness, as are only the
great". That his affinity with the artist was of a very personal
kind can be seen in his comment when he saw his pictures for the
first time. This was at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna in
autumn 1931: "All of a sudden I found myself face to face with four
pictures: two 'seasons', one 'winter' and one 'summer', and two
'elements' 'fire' and 'water'. I stood as if touched by a magic
hand." And a little further on: "The structured chaos of those odd
faces was animated by such incredibly lively eyes and those eyes
were so incredibly powerful and expressive that it is hardly
surprising that one should be absolutely thunderstruck at first
This is Mandiargues' approach
throughout the whole book, and it explains why he refuses to
classify or pigeonhole Arcimboldo's style in any way whatsoever. He
discusses a number of options, but does not take any sides. For
example, he does not reject the term "mannerist", because almost the
entire sixteenth century can be called mannerist, with the exception
that Arcimboldo's pictures do not tell stories or dreams. Similarly,
he also accepts the term "baroque artist" for Arcimboldo, because of
his "ability to shock and his tendency towards masquerades". On the
other hand, however, he points out that the "convulsive" element of
the baroque period is missing in Arcimboldo's art. Mandiargues would
be prepared to accept "pre-romantic" as a description, were it not
for the lack of a "feeling for nature" and of the "lyrical" element.
He does agree with the term "fantastic", as used by Plato in
Sophistes and also by Comanini, "who made use of Plato's arguments
in the neo-platonic dialogue Figino and applied them to our
He rejects any comparison with Hieronymus Bosch's "pre-surrealist"
style, because he cannot see anything in Arcimboldo's art that might
have come from his subconscious mind or that might have been created
automatically. "Playful, humorous at times" seems to be all right as
a description, but Mandiargues thinks it would be wrong to see the
artist entirely in those terms, as many of his contemporaries used
to. He would not want to see Arcimboldo's pictures classified as
"symbolist", among other reasons because he believes that "nothing
is veiled anywhere" in his paintings. The most appropriate term, he
says, might be that of "anthropomorphic still lifes" because it
applies to nearly all the figures he painted, including the two
pictures that can be looked at upside down.
Geiger was enthusiastic about Arcimboldo's comical and mysterious
pictures, DaCosta Kaufmann saw in his art mainly the glorification
of the Emperor and support for the existing power structures, and
Mandiargues was simply full of enthusiastic euphoria. In his book
Die Welt als Labyrinth ("The World as a Labyrinth"), Gustav Rene
Hocke tried to interpret Arcimboldo's art in the context of
mannerism. But before discussing this, we must have a brief look at
Arcimboldo as a Renaissance artist.
Every artist develops under the influence of the cultural
environment in which he lives. And as Arcimboldo was born during the
transition period between the Renaissance and Mannerism, we can find
traces of both movements in his art. His first pictures were painted
in the traditional style of the Renaissance. Even later, as a court
artist, he used to paint in this style again and again, and possibly
was even required to do so in his portraits. To give a comprehensive
view of Arcimboldo, I have included not only mannerist pictures but
also some of his traditional paintings. They can be regarded as
typical of the Renaissance. As Geiger points out, there was a
decisive turning point in Arcimboldo's art: in Prague he trod a
completely new path, stubbornly persisting in creating a style of
his own which had never been seen before and was "so unique that he
is still famous for it today". To show the difference between his
pictures before and after his turning point, it will be necessary to
give a short summary of the main features of Renaissance art.
Oil on oakwood, 66 x 50 cm
Museo de la Real Academia de Bellas
Artes de San Fernando, Madrid
This picture, which is now in the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de
San Fernando in Madrid, was painted by Arcimboldo for Ferdinand I in
1563, and is thus part of the first known series of the Four
Seasons, two of which are in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna
(Summer and Winter). This painting of Spring may have reached Spain
as a gift to Philip II. The reverse side bears the incomplete
inscription: "Spring, accompanied by Air, which...", thus confirming
DaCosta Kaufmann's suggestion that the Four Seasons and the Elements
formed certain pairs which were linked in a special way. The
inscription obviously suggests that Spring and Air belonged
together. It also explains why Arcimboldo depicted those heads in
profile: the members of each pair were meant to face one another.
This 1563 series was painted by Arcimboldo, as Geiger puts it, after
he had "taken a completely new path during his time in Prague",
where he "stubbornly persisted in creating a style of his own which
had never been seen before and was so unique that he is still famous
for it today."
Oil on limewood, 67 x 50.8 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
This picture of Summer, which is now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum
in Vienna, forms part of Arcimboldo's first series of the Four
Seasons, together with Winter (also in Vienna) and Spring (Madrid).
Like other pictures of Summer, it bears the inscription "Giuseppe
Arcimboldo F" on the collar of the figure. There are only minor
differences from the one in Paris, whereas it differs more obviously
from Arcimboldo's Summer in Bergamo, both with regard to composition
and in the design of the head dress.
Oil on wood, 66.6 x 50.5 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Winter was conceived rather differently from the other four seasons.
It is not a tete composee in the same strict sense as Spring, Summer
or Autumn. The other three seasons are presented as a variety of
equally important plants, fruits and flowers, whereas Arcimboldo's
picture of Winter consists of a central element, a tree stump in the
shape of a head, which dominates the entire composition. Both in
form and structure there is a strong similarity between the tree
stump and the wrinkled hand, stubbly beard and thick lips of an old
man, thus arousing sympathy in us and involving us personally far
more than the plants and flowers which, on closer inspection, tend
to lose their function within the picture as a whole.
The Renaissance marked a clear break with the Middle Ages as well as
an interest in nature and antiquity. Leonardo da Vinci maintained
that "the most praiseworthy painting is one which has the highest
degree of similarity with the subject, in spite of what some
painters say who want to improve nature." This shows that nature was
taken as the starting point for any artistic activity. The
idealistic paintings of the Renaissance, however, used to go beyond
a mere study of nature, perspective and anatomy; the artist aimed at
"harmony of colours, dimensions and qualities" in his pictures. And
although he would imitate nature, he also went beyond it by
selecting only those features which he believed to be beautiful. But
even his ideas of beauty were based on his studies of nature. What
the artist needed were the technical and imitative skills of a
craftsman. Those were the sources of his gift or his genius.
In his attempt to interpret Arcimboldo's art in the context of
Mannerism, Gustav Rene Hocke begins by showing the differences
between this movement and the Renaissance. The Renaissance, says
Hocke, brought about not only an interest in antiquity but also the
birth of something completely new which he calls "non-naturalist
abstraction". The forces of the late Middle Ages had come back to
life again. A kind of "fantasy art" developed. "Psychological
experiences and emotions were rated higher than exact
correspondences with sensory perception". The art of idealized
nature is seen as being in contrast with the work of art as the
enactment of an idea.
According to Zuccari, as Hocke understands him, our mind first gives
rise to a concetto, that is to say, the concept of a picture or the
picture of a concept. A concetto is not abstract. It is a
pre-existent mental image, a disegno interno, or internal sketch. In
the next step, the disegno esterno, we put this into practice. "Zuccari
distinguishes three forms of disegno esterno, i. e. of an applied
concetto: (1) the disegno naturale, in which art imitates nature;
(2) the disegno artificial, where the mind uses nature to create its
own artistic picture; (3) and the disegno fantastico-artificiale:
the origin of all 'oddities', surprising turns, capricci (literally,
the leaps and bounds of a goat), 'inventions', 'fantasies' and
ghiribizzi, i. e. the extraordinary."
An artistic idea is the manifestation of the divine in the artist's
soul. "God creates natural things, the artist artificial things. The
human imagination - just as in a dream and also like God - forms new
shapes and new things." A work of art is the result of an artist's
For Hocke there can be no doubt that Arcimboldo, too, used to have
concetti, that is to say, images or concepts in the sense of
disegno-metaforico-fantastico. In other words, Arcimboldo painted
metaphorical fantasy pictures. He even regards Arcimboldo's works as
absolutely typical of this kind of art. However, the artist did not
paint "mannerist emblems" but simple "mannerist allegories".
Oil on wood, 84x57 cm
Bayerische Staatsgemaldesammlungen, Munich
Legrand and Sluys' book Arcimboldo et les Arcimboldesques begins
with an essay on the painter. In it the authors praise Arcimboldo's
ability as an artist, his expertise in harmonizing the colours and
his confident use of the brush. However, they find his tetes
composees rather difficult to understand. They are impressed by the
extraordinary magic of those pictures, but they find his "biting
sense of humour" almost unbearable. They rather feel that Arcimboldo
has mocked and scorned the idea of the human face as a "mirror of
the soul". They accuse him of depriving man of his human nature, and
objects of their meanings.
As Arcimboldo never left anything written about his pictures or
himself, the authors try to find access to him through his
contemporaries. This led them to think of him as a typical
representative of Mannerism, which - they assume - must have been
the reason why he sank into oblivion so rapidly after his death. It
was not until Surrealism that the shock effect of these bizarrieries
plastiques was re-discovered.
Arcimboldo was highly educated, well-read and familiar with the
philosophical ideas of the ancient Greeks. This was particularly
apparent in the processions which he organized for the Hapsburgs,
such as the one in Vienna in 1571, of which we still have records.
At that time, people were becoming more and more interested in
Platonism, particularly in Italy, and the Platonic Academy of
Florence was founded. This must have made a considerable impression
on Arcimboldo and aroused or re-inforced his interest in Plato. It
is quite likely, in fact, that he was familiar with Plato's Timaeus
and his ideas about the origin of the world, and that these
philosophical writings influcenced his tetes composees. This can be
substantiated by a number of passages from Timaeus. Plato's basic
idea is that of "an eternal god" who created the world from chaos:
the heavens, the earth, the planets and the lesser gods. He also
maintains that everything was created from four basic elements:
fire, water, air and earth.
Oil on wood, 84 x 57 cm
Bayerische Staatsgemaldesammlungen, Munich
This depiction of Summer is the most unusual one among the four
paintings shown in this book. A close study of the individual
elements may reveal that in a number of places the paint was applied
rather more spontaneously.
"As we said at the beginning, these things were in disorder till God
introduced measurable relations, internal and external, among them,
to the degree and extent that they were capable of proportion and
measurement. For at first they stood in no such relations, except by
chance, nor was there anything that deserved the names - fire,
water, and the rest -which we now use. But he reduced them to order,
and then put together this universe out of them, a single living
creature containing in itself all other living things mortal and
immortal. He made the divine with his own hands, but he ordered his
own children to make the generation of mortals." These young gods
followed their father's instructions, "and in imitation of their own
maker borrowed from the world portions of fire and earth, water and
air - loans to be eventually repaid - and welded together what they
had borrowed; the bonding they used was not indissoluble, like that
by which they were themselves held together, but consisted of a
multitude of rivets too small to be seen, which held the, part of
each individual body together in a unity. And into this body,
subject to the flow of growth and decay, they fastened the orbits of
the immortal soul."
The following passage shows that animals were made from the same
substance. "For those who framed us knew that later on women and
other animals would be produced from men, and that many creatures
would need claws and hoofs for different purposes; so they provided
the rudiments of them in men at their first creation, and for this
reason and by these means caused skin, hair and nails to grow at the
extremities of their limbs."
Just as the world, the gods and mankind consist of the same
substance, plants and animals also consist of fire, water, air and
earth. "The parts and limbs of the mortal creature were thus brought
together into a whole which must of necessity live its life exposed
to fire and air, be worn away and wasted by them, and finally
perish. And to support it the gods devised and brought into being a
substance akin to it, but with different form and senses, another
kind of living thing, trees, plants and seeds. These we have today
schooled and domesticated to our purposes by agriculture, but at
first there were only the wild varieties, which are the older of the
two. Everything that has life has every right to be called a living
It seems obvious that, like Plato, Arcimboldo saw the entire
universe, mankind, animals and plants, as a unit, and that he
painted his pictures with this unity in mind.
Oil on wood, 84 x 57 cm
Bayerische Staatsgemaldesammlungen, Munich