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


Oil on canvas, 76 x 64 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

This painting belongs to a four-part cycle of the Seasons which was frequently repeated by the Milan artist for the Imperial court in Vienna and Prague. This particular series, which is now in Paris, had been commissioned by the Emperor Maximilian II for Augustus the Elector of Saxony.

The series of the Seasons in the Louvre differ from the original Viennese model in the nature of the support, with canvas taking place of wood. The majority of the known versions of the Seasons are painted on canvas. This support may have been chosen for the convenience of the transport for which these works were intended by the man who commissioned them.

The series in the Louvre is the only one to have a border formed of garlands of leaves and flowers around the heads. This feature is clearly a later addition as the greenery is depicted in a perfunctory fashion with a broader brush and in places clumsily superimposed on Arcimboldo's painting. It is assumed that it was added in the 17th century at the time of the restoration and enlargement of the original canvas.

The Italian art historian Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo (L'Idea del Tempio della pittura, Milan, 1590) described Arcimboldo's allegories as "teste composte" (composed heads). The underlying principle of these compositions is the use of elements from an object area which is clearly distinct from others and in such a way that they add up to a personified figure. The individual elements as such do not have any mimetic properties; they only receive them when they co-occur with others.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.