One of the most significant in Europe exhibitions this fall is the first of about twenty of the one hundred surviving paintings of one of the main artists of the High Renaissance. Museums and institutions owning works of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, borrow them with great reluctance. So to see a fifth of its preserved heritage is a chance that falls only once in a lifetime.
"Funny pictures" Arcimboldo, rediscovered in the 30-ies of XX century, became cult followers of Dada and surrealism, and the artist himself called the forerunner of these movements.
Traditional work of Arcimboldo on religious themes were not preserved. But his "composite heads" of vegetables, plants, fruits, sea creatures and tree roots, admired contemporaries, delight today. From a distance, these still lifes are similar to regular portraits. But actually it is placed next to and overlapping objects, which resemble the anatomical shape of the person.
The route of the retrospective at the Palazzo Barberini begins with a section devoted to Milan, where he grew Arcimboldo. The following rooms display his work in Vienna and Prague as a portrait painter at the Habsburg court. Here you can see a picture of the Archduchess Anna, the sketches for the celebrations and the personification of the "Four seasons" in dialogue with "the Four elements". Next come the so-called "rotary (or reversible) head" – it's still life, which are transformed into portraits when rotated 180 degrees. One of these songs – "gardener" which turns into "still life with onions and vegetables."
"Actually, these paintings are serious rhetorical game, a kind of challenge to the intelligence of the audience", – said the Flamin Gennari santori, Director of the National gallery of ancient art in Rome.