As Arcimboldo had promised
Rudolph II, he continued to
paint 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
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
Arcimboldo's friend and contemporary Comanini, whose
poem is given here in an English translation of Geiger's
Don Gregorio Comanini
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 popular poems".
Don Gregorio Comanini welcomed it with the
Son'io Flora o pur fiori?
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
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 fertility.
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
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
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
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
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 sight."
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 painter."
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
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
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
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.
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 idea.
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
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
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
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 thing."
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