Skip to Main Content

Arcimboldo, 1526–1593: Nature and Fantasy

September 19, 2010 – January 9, 2011
East Building, Mezzanine

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

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

Overview: 16 paintings of fantastic heads composed of animals, plants, and objects by 16th-century Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo were presented in this exhibition, the first time the works had been shown together in the United States. Included were Arcimboldo's painting Four Seasons in One Head from the collection of the National Gallery of Art, together with loans from the Kunsthistorishes Museum, Vienna, the Musée du Louvre, Paris, and other public and private collections in Europe and the United States. The presentation was selected from a 2008 exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, and the Kunsthistorishes Museum, Vienna. To suggest the context for the artist's work, the exhibition in Washington also included 30 prints, drawings, volumes, and sculptures by Arcimboldo's contemporaries, including drawings by Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Dürer, volumes illustrated by Joris Hoefnagel, and a helmet by Giovanni Paolo Negroli. The exhibition was part of ITALY@150, a series of activities in Washington, DC, and throughout the United States celebrating the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy.

A 15-foot-tall fiberglass sculpture by American artist Philip Haas, inspired by Arcimboldo's painting Winter, also was on view on the East Building Mezzanine in association with the installation. Following the exhibition in Washington, the fiberglass sculpture was scheduled to travel to the gardens of Versailles, the Palazzo Reale in Milan, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

On September 19 exhibition curator Sylvia Ferino-Pagden presented the lecture "Arcimboldo: Lombard Painter between Leonardo and Caravaggio," followed by a book signing of the catalog. A documentary film, Arcimboldo: Nature and Fantasy, produced by the National Gallery of Art, was presented in East Building auditoriums during the exhibition. A short version of the film was shown continuously within the installation. In November, special Sunday concerts offered music of Renaissance composers in honor of the exhibition.

Organization: The exhibition was organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Sylvia Ferino-Pagden, curator of Italian Renaissance painting, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, was curator. David Alan Brown, curator, and Gretchen Hirschauer, associate curator, department of Italian and Spanish paintings, National Gallery of Art, coordinated the exhibition in Washington.

Sponsor: The exhibition was made possible by Louisa and Robert Duemling. It was sponsored by Altria Group with additional support provided by The Exhibition Circle of the National Gallery of Art. The exhibition was supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. The film was made possible by the HRH Foundation.

Attendance: 133,753 (113 days)

Brochure: Arcimboldo, 1526–1593: Nature and Fantasy, by Sylvia Ferino-Pagden et al. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 2010.

Other Venues: Palazzo Reale, Milan, February 9–May 22, 2011

Arcimboldo, 1526-1593: Nature and Fantasy
Audio, Released: November 2, 2010, (12:42 minutes)
Winter (after Arcimboldo) by Philip Haas
Audio, Released: September 28, 2010, (28:26 minutes)
Arcimboldo: Nature and Fantasy
Video, Released: September 14, 2010, (14:11 minutes)
Press Event: Arcimboldo, 1526-1593: Nature and Fantasy
Audio, Released: September 14, 2010, (27:51 minutes)