LIFE AS MYTH

Index

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JOURNAL

Index

 

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JOURNAL 2008

venus

Impressions at sunrise

Finding the inner muse

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SUMMER 2008

Watershed art

Index 2008

A portrait in composure

This is not art

A gleaming spark

Painting shadows

A gypsy dreaming

Colored points of light

Mirroring a marriage

Impressions at sunrise

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LIFEWORKS

About

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ARCHIVES

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SUMMER 2008
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A PORTRAIT IN COMPOSURE

Vertumnus: Portrait of Rudolph II. Giuseppe Arcimboldo. 1591. Skoklosters Slott, Balsta, Sweden.

Shall I not have intelligence with the earth?  Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself?
Henry David Thoreau (1817-62), writer, transcendentalist, naturalist

Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-93) worked as court portraitist and festival organizer during the reigns of three Hapsburg emperors: Ferdinand I (1558-1564), Maximilian II (1564-1576), Rudolph II (1576-1612). He is best known for his allegorical "composed head" portraits, with Vertumnus: Portrait of Rudolph II being the most outstanding example. In this particular portrait Arcimboldo imagines his patron as Vertumnus, the Roman god of metamorphosis, vegetation and the four seasons. Rudolph II was so pleased by the painting that he granted Arcimboldo the title of Count of Palantine.

There has been speculation among art historians that these works suggest some form of mental illness. However, that theory is not very persuasive when considering the portraits within the context of the Hapsburg court and, most especially, the reign of Rudolph II.

Under Rudolphine rule, Prague became one of the foremost centers for arts and sciences on the European continent. Some of the most important artists, scientists and scholars came together to collaborate, earning Prague the designation Parnassus of the arts*. In this inter-disciplinary atmosphere, Arcimboldo flourished: painting, designing wunderkammers and hydraulic machines, creating a musical notation system using color.

Though popular in his lifetime, Arcimboldo's work fell out of fashion after his death. It was not until the twentieth century that his paintings attracted new interest, having a significant influence on the Surrealism movement and the work of Salvador Dali.

 

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