May 11, 2004

A Fourth Spring

For a May day, it is untypically drab and chilly here today. May is my favourite time of year in these parts, and is usually so full of warm sunshine, fragrant breezes and refreshing rainshowers, all of which were in glorious evidence this past weekend, just not today. This is our fourth spring season in Scandinavia…

'Spring', by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1560s(?), oil on oak, Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid.

The image above is another of Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s ‘composed heads’, this time Spring, from one of several series of paintings illustrating the Four Seasons that he executed during the 1560s and ’70s. The original Seasons were painted ca. 1563, for the Hapsburg emperor Maximilian, to whom they were formally presented in 1569. Of that set, only Summer and Winter, both currently in Vienna, are known to have survived. The painting above is from a set which found its way to Spain, possibly as a gift from the German Hapsburgs to their Spanish cousins. The next Spring, below, painted in 1572, may have been one of the spoils of the sack of Prague by a force of Swedish mercenaries in 1648. In any case, it was held in Swedish collections until this set’s sale, in 1965.

'Spring', by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1572, oil on canvas, Private Collection, Bergamo.

The third Spring, below, with the floral frame, is from a series dated 1573, and is thought to have been part of another Hapsburg gift-set, which resides today in the Louvre. A very similar Spring, not illustrated here, belonged to a quartet of seasons that came into the possession of Elizabeth, daughter of James I of England, the ‘Winter Queen’ of Bohemia, and which has remained in a family collection ever since.

'Spring', by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1573, oil on canvas, Musée National du Louvre, Paris.

Lastly, and in place of a fourth Spring, there is Arcimboldo’s similarly flowery Flora, or rather a version of a painting by that name, one of Arcimboldo’s last, dating from 1591, which is now thought lost. The authenticity of this version is apparently open to some doubt.

'Flora', by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1591(?), oil on wood, Private Collection, Paris.

Click on the images to see them greatly enlarged. My source for the present images, and for most of the information above, is the 1980 FMR monograph about Arcimboldo, hence some of the locations and attributions mentioned above may now be wrong.

Posted by misteraitch at May 11, 2004 08:49 PM | TrackBack

When I look at these compositions I just can't help being reminded of this one by Francesco Urbini (1536).

Posted by: John Hardy on May 12, 2004 07:28 AM

And Parajanov collages - except he would include elaborate frame into composition as well.

Posted by: Tatyana on May 13, 2004 11:38 PM

Posted by: . on May 20, 2004 11:43 PM

It was a great time with great people.

Posted by: sjomka on February 28, 2005 06:18 PM

He know how to deskribe women

Posted by: Yaryna on March 1, 2005 09:20 AM
Comments are now closed