Where to see it
Salvador Dalí, like many other surrealists, knew Arcimboldo's work and was amazed.
Why we love it
The Seasons or The Four Seasons is a set of four paintings produced in 1563, 1572 and 1573 by Giuseppe Arcimboldo who also created another set called The Four Elements. Each shows a profile portrait made up of fruit, vegetables and plants relating to the relevant season. The set was accompanied by a poem by Giovanni Battista Fonteo (1546-1580) explaining their allegorical meaning.
It is interesting to know that Only Winter and Summer survive from the original work (you can enjoy them at Kunsthistorisches Museum travelling to Vienna). The Louvre has a full set of the copies made by the painter, and Spring also survives from a set copied for Philip II of Spain – it is now in the Real Academia de San Fernando in Madrid.
Part of Arcimboldo’s work, like his traditional religious themes, has fallen into oblivion, but his portraits of human heads made up of vegetables, fruits and tree roots, are still in full trend today with collage compositions and works with “double sense”. We can see his influence on current artists, numerous social media accounts, movies like the Czech Jan Svankmajer, or album covers like the rock group Kansas. Almost 500 years wearing a blackberry in the eye, a pear for a nose and grapes and leaves for a crown of hair, and it continues to fascinate us.