Food In Art: Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Guiseppe Arcimboldo
Giuseppe Arcimboldo

One of the most  intriguing artists I know of went by the name of Giuseppe Arcimboldo (also known as Arcimboldi, 1527 – 1593). A series of four paintings hangs in the Museé du Louvre in Paris and every time I see the paintings, I wish they belonged to me.

This Italian artist painted these Mannerist masterpieces — representing the four seasons of the year —  in 1573 for his patron, the Holy Roman Emperor,  Rudolf II. The fine brushwork and realism encourage the viewer to sense that with a quick grab at an apple or a pear, when the guards aren’t watching, mid-morning hunger could be satisfied with a fleshy fruit. Plucked from the painting like the real thing from a leafy tree. Colors, shapes, textures — all witness the relentless passage of time.

Along the way, the faces formed by the fruits and vegetables age through the seasons of humankind’s earthly life.

As Kenneth Bendiner says,  “food is almost always joyful.”

It is, at least in art, anyway. Or is it?

Spring / Le Printemps, Giuseppe ArcimboldoWhat a joy it would be to wake up in the morning, looking at Le Printemps,

brewing thick coffee, savoring the bounty of Spring berries!

Summer / L'Ete, 1573,  Giuseppe ArcimboldoOr what about L’Été? The sheer abundance of Summer makes hands itch with a longing to cook.

Autumn / L'Automne, 1573, Giuseppe ArcimboldoL’Automne brings regrets of the lost opportunities of Spring and Summer as the autumn days grow colder.

But there’s still much to savor yet before winter comes.

Winter / L'Hiver, 1573, Giuseppe ArcimboldoAnd L’Hiver? What can winter render other than sausages and cabbage? Arcimboldo shows us.

For more about food in art:

Don’t miss the Art-in-the-Picture Web site: an introduction to art history, the site is accessible by tags and FOOD & DRINK is one of  the categories. Scroll down to various links ranging from paintings featuring absinthe to wine. (A “Thank you” to Bruno Dillen for alerting me to this site!)

Take a look at Food in Painting: From the Renaissance to the Present, by Kenneth Bendiner and Art, Culture, & Cuisine: Ancient & Medieval Gastronomy, by Phyllis Pray Bober.

And see my previous post on art and food in France, “Food for Art’s Sake.”

© 2009 C. Bertelsen

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