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

The Vegetable Gardener

Oil on wood, 36 x 24 cm
Museo Civico "Ala Ponzone", Cremona

This painting belongs to a group called "reversible heads" which allow for a dual interpretation when turned upside-down, delighting the viewer with their metamorphosis. Viewed in one direction, the picture shows a traditional still-life: a metal bowl full mostly of vegetables. Turned upside-down, the forms alchemically come to life to produce a grinning face. The chubby cheeks and the long swollen nose obviously allude to the testicles and an erect penis. Similarly, the mushroom lips are reminiscent of the vaginal lips. By deliberately juxtaposing the male and female sex organs the artist clearly wished to refer to the sexual act. A possible interpretation is that the figure represented is Priapus, a fertility deity and protector of gardens.

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