Saturday, October 4, 2014

Faces Made of Flowers: The Four Seasons by Giuseppe Arcimboldo

A while back, I was at an antique show. When I saw a small oil painted version of the image above, it stopped me in my tracks. I was all, "Oh my gosh, she is made of flowers and her ear is a peony and maybe there is a ladybug on her boob and WOW. JUST WOW." She was weird and beautiful, and I fell in love at first sight.

The dealer sidled up to me and said, "I could take $750 for it." HAHAHAHA YEAH RIGHT!!! I tried to engage him in an enthusiastic conversation about the piece, and how it reminded me of 16th century Dutch Vanitas paintings, but he looked at me like I'd sprouted a tulip on my forehead. So I went home and Googled phrases like "face made of flowers" until I discovered the painter's name: Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

Here's what I've been able to learn about the artist: Giuseppe Arcimboldo served as the court portraitist to three different monarchs. He was Italian but also lived and worked in Vienna and Prague. In addition to painting portraits, he was the court decorator and costume designer at the royal court in Prague. Um, how can I get that job?! He painted a few sets of The Four Seasons collection. However, the Swedish army looted many of his pieces when they attacked Prague in 1648. Few complete sets survive.

The first painting is called Spring, and it's the first painting in a four part series. Spring is all sweetness and flowers; Summer is fresh summer fruits; Autumn is pumpkins, apples, grapes, and kegs; Winter is roots, ivy, and gnarled tree trunks. Now I can't decide which one is my favorite! Which one do you like best? Summer's cucumber nose cracks me up, but I think Winter's gnarled face is so endearing.


  1. I distinctly remember seeing at least one of these at the Louvre!

  2. These are amazing!! $750 is a deal in the art world, but not in my world. Take care!

    1. I'm glad you like them! And I agree that $750 is not a price I could pay for art. $750 is probably a good deal for original art, but I would never pay that for a print or reproduction.


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