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.