Giuseppe Arcimboldo / by Chris Hall

Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526 – 1593) was an Italian Renaissance painter from the city of Milan, best known for creating imaginative portraits made entirely of objects such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, and books.  At a distance, his art appears as normal portraits, but on closer inspection, one can see that the objects encompassing the portraits actually overlap to make the various anatomical facial features.  Often the objects assembled in his portraits are befitting for their subject matter, such as the books used to make up his portrait study of The Librarian.

Arcimboldo's work is such an aberration from Renaissance norms that many modern critics have wondered aloud whether or not the artist was in some way deranged or mentally unbalanced.  Most critics weigh in on Arcimboldo being sane, however, and that he catered to the Renaissance's fascination with puzzles, riddles, and the bizarre, as during his time, his work was greatly admired.  Arcimboldo's work fell out of favor some time after his death, but Surrealist movement brought back a renewed fascination for his strange, imaginative portraits.