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"The Emperor Rudolph II as Vertumnus" by Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Renaissance Faces Exhibition at the National Gallery in London

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National Gallery London Renaissance Faces exhibition

"The Emperor Rudolph II as Vertumnus" by Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527?–1593), c.1590. © Skoklosters Castle (11615). Photo Samuel Uhrdin.

© Skoklosters Castle (11615).
Arcimboldo was definitely not your average portrait painter of the Renaissance era (of any era for that matter). He constructed people's faces from fruit, veggies, meat, and other unlikely objects such as pots and books. Up close you can see the individual items; the further away you move the more they blend into one another to create the surprisingly lifelike portraits.

Look closely at the shadows on the individual elements and on the figure overall. (Squint at the photo to see the darker and lighter tones more clearly.) Notice how each bit is totally realistic and wouldn't be out of place in a still life.

If you wanted to attempt painting something like this, you'd first have to be totally at ease painting the individual pieces of fruit and veg. Then spend time sketching to figure out what you'd use for which facial features. Then start painting. It's definitely not a "painting in a weekend" project!

See Also:
Who was Arcimboldo?
Exhibition Gallery: Arcimboldo (from About.com's Guide to Art History)
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