(b. 1526, Milano, d. 1593, Milano)
Oil on panel, 68 x 56 cm
Skoklosters Slott, Bålsta (Stockholm)
There is no mistaking this masterpiece of fantasy and virtuoso imagination by Arcimboldo. The mythical Vertumnus (or Vortumnus), god of harvests and abundance, is in fact a bizarre portrait of the Habsburg Emperor Rudolf II. In the sixteenth century the emperor's cosmopolitan court in Prague became a centre of international art, where Arcimboldo moved in the refined and exclusive circles of late European Mannerism. His painting might appear almost irreverent, but in fact is the manifestation of his eager search for new ideas and his exploration of different ways of expression. (It also gives quite a good impression of the Emperor.) This led him to break the usual rules in order to provoke uncensored reactions and emotions. The paintings and objects contained in Rudolf of Habsburg's Wunderkammer (room of wonders) were unfortunately scattered after a Swedish army sacked Prague during the Thirty Years' War (1618-48).