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Water (1566) by Arcimboldo

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Water is the most complex in a series of portraits based on the four elements. The marine animals have been painted very realistically, without reference to their actual size. The Emperor, who had a keen interest in zoology, had scientists attached to his court and they assisted Arcimboldo with this painting. The portrait is a classic tribute to the ruler Maximillian II who sees to it that his subjects are able to live in harmony with the elements.

GIUSEPPE ARCIMBOLDO (CA. 1527-1593): Initially, like his father, the Renaissance painter Arcimboldo worked as a painter on Milan Cathedral. This changed in 1562 when the Emperor of Hapsburg, Ferdinand I, summoned him to the royal court in Prague. Ferdinands successors, Maximillian II and Rudolph II, were also much taken with Archibold's marvelous talents and so, for nearly all of the rest of his life, he remained in the service of this court, not only as a painter, but also as an architect, a designer of bizarre settings and costumes, and an organizer of major festivities. His work was much appreciated both for its sense of craftsmanship as well as its artistic value, and its eccentric, if sometimes comical aspects, may have made a welcome change to the day-to-day harsh political reality. Arcimboldo owes his present-day fame to his artistic discovery of the composite head. He painted his first version of The Four Seasons, portraits composed of flowers, fruit, twigs and leaves, soon after his arrival in Prague.

ART BECOMES REALITY WITH THESE STATUE BUSTS: These somewhat bizarre fantasy representations of the human head look like comic book style constructions of good heroes and evil demons. They are amusing as a montage of vegetation, sea life, and book pages seeming overtaking the poor science fiction type person inside. They have a sort of monster style or sci-fi edge to them which any collector of the unusual and surreal would find amusing. What would they say if they could come alive?

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4.5 in. x 4 in. x 3 in.


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