ARCIMBOLDO, Giuseppe
(b. 1526, Milano, d. 1593, Milano)

The Librarian

c. 1566
Oil on canvas, 97 x 71 cm
Skoklosters Slott, Bålsta (Stockholm)

Arcimboldo's most famous works are the fantasy paintings representing human faces and composed from flowers, fruits, fishes and other objects. Sometimes these paintings have allegoric or moral references.

Arcimboldo made a number of portraits of people in the immediate entourage of Emperor Maximilian II. These portraits were often composed with the specific tools of their trade or profession. This portrait depicts an old man composed largely of books piled one above and against each other. An open book on top of his head forms his hat. The figure is held together by a cloak shaped from the drapery in the background.

The librarian has been interpreted as a portrait of Wolfgang Lazius, a learned collector and scientist who was in charge of the Emperor's Kunstkammer and who arranged his numismatic collection and his library.