Né en 1526 dans la noblesse milanaise, Arcimboldo est répertorié pour la première fois en tant que peintre en 1549, à l’occasion de la réalisation de cartons de vitraux pour la cathédrale de Milan. Peu de temps après, il reçoit de Ferdinand de Bohème, futur empereur Ferdinand Ier, une commande pour la réalisation de blasons.Appelé à Vienne par son fils, Maximilien, il restera au service...
The exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg explore the mysterious world and strange, extravagant works of this artist, best known for his ingenious portrait heads composed of objects like plants, fruits, flowers and so on. When his work was re-discovered in the early 20th century, many considered him to be the pioneer of modern art.


The fantastic, fanciful creations of the 16th-century Italian artist known as history's first surrealist have gone on show in the French capital.

The Musee du Luxembourg in Paris is hosting a major exhibit of work by the Mannerist Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1525-1593), famous in modern times for his brilliant paintings of people shaped from fruit, flowers and everyday objects. A hit in his lifetime for his portraiture skill and his highly inventive style, Arcimboldo's name vanished after his death, his clever ideas and optical illusions dismissed as meaningless flights of fancy by generations of art critics. It was only in the early 20th century that his work was rediscovered by the Surrealists, who adopted some of his techniques, and revived his reputation, which has grown steadily over the last century.

The Paris exhibition, the largest devoted to Arcimboldo in more than 20 years, features over 100 of his paintings, sketches and designs.

Among the best-known works on display are a 1527 self-portrait on paper, and his allegorical 'Four Seasons' series. Each of the four paintings features a head in profile, representing one of the seasons through appropriate fruits, flowers and plants. The exhibit also includes his most famous painting of all, Vertumnus. Completed in 1591, the portrait depicts his patron, Emperor Rudolf II of the Hapsburg family, as the Roman god of vegetation and metamorphosis.

The portrait, a collage of vegetables, fruit and flowers, is meant to symbolize the prosperity and balance between nature and harmony that his reign allegedly represented.

Other paintings on show include The Librarian, a figure of piled-up books, The Vegetable Gardener, a man comprised of vegetables with a bowl for a hat, and The Lawyer, a sinister shape of papers, meat and fish. In addition to an extensive selection of the portraits that made his name, the exhibit features several objects fashioned by Arcimboldo, including weapons, armour and a tapestry.

The son of a painter, Arcimboldo was born of a well-connected family in Milan, which helped him secure work designing frescoes and the stained-glass windows of Milan's famous Duomo.

His reputation quickly spread and in 1562 he was summoned to the Hapsburg Court in Vienna by Maximilian II, a fan of his portraits. He worked for Maximilian II, and, later, his son Rufolf II in Prague, for most of his life, becoming the court decorator, costume designer and general art expert. Arcimboldo returned to his native Milan in 1587, where he completed his last great work, Vertumnus, before dying in 1593.


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