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Four Seasons in One Head

Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593) was an Italian Mannerist painter, who painted portraits where the subjects head is entirely composed of unusual objects such as vegetables, books, fish and so on, the choice of style for the portrait was sometimes determined by the profession, for example, a librarian made out of books or a green grocer made out of vegetables. Some of his art can be turned upside down to represent an ordinary object one way and a portrait the other way, for example one way round The Green Grocer shows a portrait of a head made from vegetables, though when turned upside down becomes a bowl of vegetables, the same idea is true of his piece Reversible Head with Basket of Fruit. He was greatly admired in his time and remains a source of interest and inspiration today. Indeed Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s unique and imaginative style has led many to consider him the great grandfather of Surrealism.


Surrealism began in the early 1920’s and involves painting dream like or illogical scenes with realistic, sometimes photographic precision, in a way, the surrealist paints a kind of dreamscape. The term can transcend art and can refer to a kind of freeing of the imagination. The influence of surrealism can be easily seen today in films and especially in some video games, indeed one of the earliest and most influential game companies in video game history, Sierra, can arguably have been said to ’borrow’ from surrealism. 

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