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

The Four Seasons in one Head

c. 1590
Oil on poplar wood, 60 x 45 cm
Private collection

This work was painted for Don Gregorio Comanini, a Mantuan man of letters. He gives the following description of the painting in his dialogue Il Figino, published in 1591:

"Please have Comanino show you that piece of art that he made of the four seasons. The you will see a very special painting!

A very knotty trunk represents the breast and head, some holes for the mouth and eyes, and a protruding branch for the nose; the beard is made of strands of moss and some twigs on the forehead form horns. This tree-stump, without its own leaves or fruit, represents winter, which produces nothing itself, but depends on the production of the other seasons.

A small flower on his breast and over his shoulders symbolizes spring, as well as a bundle of ears bound to some twigs, and a cloak of plaited straw covering his shoulders, and two cherries hanging from a branch forming his ear, and two damsons on the back of his head represent summer.

And two grapes hanging from a twig, one white and one red, and some apples, hidden among evergreen ivy sprouting forth from his head, symbolize autumn.

Among the branches in the head, one in the middle is loosing a bit of its bark, and pieces of it are bent and falling off; on the white area of this branch is written 'ARCIMBOLDUS P.'.

This is how the painting is, in any case, and if you see it, it will please you wonderfully."

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