Autumn by Giuseppe Arcimboldo
Presenting a shift from the earlier two portraits, “Autumn” is shown in the guise of a middle-aged man. Certainly more rough around the edges than the more refined portraits of the women, “Autumn” takes the series on a darker turn as the beginning chill of fall hints at the icy winter yet to come. Formed from various autumn products, his colors are muted as the brilliant and diverse shades of spring and summer cool down with the coming of the winter. However, the variety of products present in the previous portraits still remains. Here, his face is formed with a pear for his nose, an invitingly round and ripe apple creates a cheek, while a pomegranate suggests his chin. The changing of the seasons is also present in the reappearance of wheat: rather than lush and golden like those forming the gown in “Summer”, “Autumn’s” beard of wheat is duller, browned and drooping. It is also far wilder and untamed contrary to the elegantly woven wheat of "Summer's" dress.
The figure also presents the next stage in the life-cycle of man: where “Spring” is youth, “Summer” is young adulthood, “Autumn” moves on to middle age, and “Winter” then completes the cycle as old age. Contrary to the earlier seasons, “Autumn’s” expression also shifts, as the smiling mouths and bright eyes of the women of “Spring” and “Summer” shift to a more dismal countenance and flat mouth. This is also evident in the depiction of the mouth itself, where rather than being created from more pleasant pieces as in the mouths of his female counterparts, is instead spiky, harsh and far less welcoming. There are other signs too that darker times are coming, as in the fig that stands in for an earring. Rather than depicting a whole, ripe fruit such as one that would have been present in “Summer”, Arcimboldo instead paints a fig that is burst, caught in the moment as its seeds spill and spoil the fruit.
Giuseppe Arcimboldo Biography
Giuseppe Arcimboldo was an Italian painter best known for creating imaginative portrait heads made entirely of objects such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, and books. Giuseppe Arcimboldo started his career as a designer for stained glass and frescoes at local cathedrals when he was 21 years old.
In 1562, he became court portraitist to Ferdinand I at the Habsburg court in Vienna, Austria and later, to Maximilian II and his son Rudolf II at the court in Prague. He was also the court decorator and costume designer. Augustus, Elector of Saxony, who visited Vienna in 1570 and 1573, saw Arcimboldo's work and commissioned a copy of his The Four Seasons which incorporates his own monarchic symbols. Arcimboldo's conventional work, on traditional religious subjects, has fallen into oblivion, but his portraits of human heads made up of vegetables, plants, fruits, sea creatures, and tree roots, were greatly admired by his contemporaries and remain a source of fascination today.
At a distance, his portraits looked like normal human portraits. However, individual objects in each portrait were actually overlapped together to make various anatomical shapes of a human. They were carefully constructed by his imagination. The assembled objects in each portrait were not random: each was related by characterization. In the portrait now represented by several copies called The Librarian, Arcimboldo used objects that signified the book culture at that time, such as the curtain that created individual study rooms in a library. The animal tails, which became the beard of the portrait, were used as dusters. By using everyday objects, the portraits were decoration and still-life paintings at the same time. His works showed not only nature and human beings, but also how closely they were related.
After a portrait was released to the public, some scholars, who had a close relationship with the book culture at that time, argued that the portrait ridiculed their scholarship. In fact, Arcimboldo criticized rich people's misbehavior and showed others what happened at that time through his art. The Librarian, although the painting might have appeared ridiculous, it also contained a criticism of wealthy people who collected books only to own them, rather than to read them.
Art critics debate whether his paintings were whimsical or the product of a deranged mind. A majority of scholars hold to the view, however, that given the Renaissance fascination with riddles, puzzles, and the bizarre (see, for example, the grotesque heads of Leonardo da Vinci), Arcimboldo, far from being mentally imbalanced, catered to the taste of his times. Arcimboldo died in Milan, where he had retired after leaving the Prague service. It was during this last phase of his career that he produced the composite portrait of Rudolph II, as well as his self-portrait as the Four Seasons. His Italian contemporaries honored him with poetry and manuscripts celebrating his illustrious career.
When the Swedish army invaded Prague in 1648, during the Thirty Years' War, many of Arcimboldo's paintings were taken from Rudolf II's collection. His works can be found in Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Habsburg Schloss Ambras in Innsbruck; the Louvre in Paris; as well as in numerous museums in Sweden. In Italy, his work is in Cremona, Brescia, and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. The Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut; the Denver Art Museum in Denver, Colorado; the Menil Foundation in Houston, Texas; the Candie Museum in Guernsey and the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid also own paintings by Arcimboldo.
He is known as a 16th-century Mannerist. A transitional period from 1520 to 1590, Mannerism adopted some artistic elements from the High Renaissance and influenced other elements in the Baroque period. A Mannerist tended to show close relationships between human and nature. Arcimboldo also tried to show his appreciation of nature through his portraits. In The Spring, the human portrait was composed of only various spring flowers and plants. From the hat to the neck, every part of the portrait, even the lips, and nose, was composed of flowers, while the body was composed of plants. On the other hand, in The Winter, the human was composed mostly of roots of trees. Some leaves from evergreen trees and the branches of other trees became hair, while a straw mat became the costume of the human portrait.
The perfect accent for any space! Each wood print is unique due to the natural qualities of each individual panel of wood.
• Wood canvas made from Birch wood sourced from sustainable Canadian forests
• UV set inks, meaning the print resists water
• Each wood print is made in Montreal, Canada
• Easy care, don’t touch the print if you don’t have to, but you can wipe it with a dry or damp cloth to remove dust
• Arrives ready to hang! 4 panel frame in back allows you to just pop the wood print on a small nail in the wall, no wires necessary