Today I spent a pleasant day lin Milan looking around a couple of art galleries. I went to the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana which had some marvellous sketches and notes by Leonardo da Vinci and some superb paintings by Jan Bruegel as well as a plethora of Italian Renaissance works of art. I then went to the Pinacoteca di Brera which has an unbelievable collection of paintings, many of which, like The Kiss by Francesco Hayez and the Dead Christ by Andrea Mantegna, I have featured in My Daily Art Display.
However for My Daily Art Display today I am going to feature a painting by an artist whose works were on show at an exhibition in the Palazzo Reale which is almost next door to the awesome Milan Cathedral. You either love or hate this artist’s work but you can never ignore it. He is Guiseppe Arcimboldo, born in Milan in 1527. He is famous for his imaginative portrait heads which are made entirely out of fruits, vegetables, flowers and fish. His father was also a painter and he and his son were commissioned to do some stained glass windows for the cathedral. At the age of thirty-five Arcimboldo became court painter for Ferdinand I at the Habsburg court in Vienna. Later he was to work in Prague for Emperor Maximilian II and his son Rudolf II as both a costume designer and decorator. Although Archimboldo completed many conventional and traditional religious works he will always be remembered for his human heads made up of such unusual thgings, like vegetables. The jury is out on their merit. Art historians disagree on whether these painting were just fanciful and quirky or the result of the artist’s disturbed mind. However it should be remembered that during the Renaissance period, people were mesmerised by the weird and outlandish and maybe all the artist did was to offer up something which was in great demand.
I had seen many of his paintings before in books but I had never been up close to them. They really are quite amazing. The painting I am featuring today (above) is not one of his well known “four season” paintings but is one of his “reversible head” paintings. I came across it at the exhibition and found it hung in an alcove in front of which, lying horizontally, was a mirror. The painting which was entitled Vegetables in a Bowl appeared to be just what it stated – a bowl of mixed vegetables which I took on face value.
However when I peered into the mirror it showed me an upside-down image of the painting and above is what I saw…… amazing isn’t it ?
The alternative title of the painting is The Vegetable Gardener. I love the chubby cheeks and the long swollen nose which some believe allude to the testicles and an erect penis but maybe that is taking imagination too far!
Like all painting, one can never fully appreciate the artist’s work until one is standing up close to them and taking in their true beauty. We all know that books try and give us faithful reproductions but there is nothing quite like the genuine article.
I leave Milan today and head east to Verona and Padua and then will go to Venice on Saturday.