Arcimboldo, 1526–1593: Nature and Fantasy

September 19, 2010 – January 9, 2011

East Building Mezzanine


Overview: Sixteen examples of the fantastic composite heads painted by Giuseppe Arcimboldo will be featured in this exhibition, their first appearance in the United States. Bizarre yet scientifically accurate, the unusual heads are composed of plants, animals, and objects. Additional works, including drawings by Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Dürer, small bronzes, illustrated books and manuscripts, and ceramics, will provide a context for Arcimboldo's inventions, revealing his debt to established traditions of physiognomic and nature studies.

As visitors ascend the stairs to the Mezzanine in the East Building they will encounter Winter (After Arcimboldo) (2010), a colossal 15-foot-tall, fiberglass sculpture by American artist and filmmaker Philip Haas (b. 1954). It is inspired by Arcimboldo's painting Winter (1563), which is on loan to the exhibition from the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Paying tribute to Arcimboldo's exuberant designs for court festivals in Renaissance Vienna and Prague, Haas has created at once a commentary on Arcimboldo's style and a work of art in its own right. A puzzle of natural forms—composed of a human head of bark, branches, twigs, moss, fungi, vines, and ivy—the object is both bizarre and expressive. Completed in time for Arcimboldo, 1526–1593: Nature and Fantasy, the sculpture will travel to the Gardens of Versailles, the Palazzo Reale in Milan, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

Organization: Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Sponsor: The exhibition is made possible by Louisa and Robert Duemling. It also is sponsored by Altria Group. Additional support is provided by The Exhibition Circle of the National Gallery of Art. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Image: Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Four Seasons in One Head, c. 1590, oil on panel, Paul Mellon Fund, 2010.77.1


Watch a video (14:12 mins.)

In Conversation: Winter (after Arcimboldo) by Philip Haas
Mark Leithauser, senior curator and head of design and installation, National Gallery of Art, and Philip Haas, artist and filmmaker

Arcimboldo, 1526–1593: Nature and Fantasy
David Brown, curator, Italian and Spanish paintings, National Gallery of Art, and Sylvia Ferino-Pagden, curator, Italian Renaissance painting, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Music Program: Nature and Fantasy in 16th–Century Italian Music
Program: Music by Arcadelt, Cara, Donato, Tromboncino, and others

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