(b. 1526, Milano, d. 1593, Milano)
Oil on wood, 67 x 51 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
The painting is one of the series representing the Four Elements. From the series, Fire and Water are in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Earth is now in a Viennese private collection. Air has been lost and only exists in copies.
Water is composed of a multitude of aquatic animals. (The listing of the aquatic animals contains 62 species.) The unusual multitude of species here is astonishing, as well as the inclusion of invertebrates, not only of the snail and the crab, but also of worms. On the other hand, common edible fish are missing.
In this composition Arcimboldo gave no consideration to the relationship of sizes among the individual animals, as can be seen by comparing the large seahorse with the comparatively small seal.