Italian painter. In the middle of the sixteenth century Arcimboldo made a normal debut with youthful works including designs for window s and tapestries respectively in Milan and Monza cathedrals and frescos for the cathedral of Como. None of these gave any inkling of the bizarre originality he would soon develop. In 1562 he was summoned to the Imperial court in Prague and almost immediately his original and grotesque fantasy was unleashed. He invented a portrait type consisting of painted animals,
composed to form a human likeness. Some are satiric portraits of court personages, and others are allegorical personifications.
Arcimboldo s style has been so often imitated over the centuries that it is sometimes difficult to make exact attributions. He has been seen by some as the forerunner of Surrealism in the 20th century, but, more to the point, he should be seen in his own context at the end of the Renaissance. This was a time when people (collectors and scientists alike) were beginning to pay more attention to nature. Arcimboldo really created the fantastic image of the court in Prague, creating costumes, set designs, and decorations. Emperor Rudolf II set him the task of researching and buying works of art and natural curiosities, as well as giving him countless commissions for paintings. In 1587 Arcimboldo went back to Milan but stayed in contact with the Emperor. Towards the end of his life, he sent the Emperor the idiosyncratic portrait of him in the guise of the Greek god Vertemnus.
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