Giuseppe Arcimboldo was born in 1527 in Italy. He began practising as an artist when he was 22 years old and worked alongside his father Biagio producing designs for stained glass windows for Milan Cathedral some of which still survive to this day notably the scenes depicting the life of St Catherine. His other early works include highly decorative and sumptuous tapestry designs, many of which hint at the direction Arcimboldo’s artworks would take later in life.
In 1551 Ferdinand, then Duke of Bohemia commissioned Arcimboldo to paint for him five coats of arms. These works must of made a big impression upon the Duke as later when he succeeded his brother Charles V, to become Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, he decided that he wanted Arcimboldo for his court painter.
It was at the Hapsburg court that influences from earlier life, mingling with new impressions and experiences, merged into an artistic melting pot that would see Arcimboldo go on to produce the imaginative creations for which be became most famous.
In my opinion Arcimboldo was centuries ahead of his time in the portraits he was producing, using fruit, vegetables, seeds and animals to depict the face. In ways so complex that the mind boggles at the time he must of spent planning each painting down to the last detail.
Some of his paintings like the famous “Greengrocer” made up entirely of vegetables, hold a secret, for when they are turned upside down they reveal a totally different painting, this can be seen in the works below.
Arcimboldo died 11th July 1593 at the age of sixty-six. The great fame the he had enjoyed during his lifetime soon waned after his death. For the next two centuries his work lay in relative obscurity, only to be discovered again in the late 19th and 20th centuries by the Surrealist Movement in particular.