26 March 2011

In Milan an exhibition of delights, dedicated to Giuseppe Arcimboldo

The 5-meters-high statue, made out of fibregalss, realized by the contemporary artist Philip Haas, towers in front of the Milanese exhibition.
It is a tribute to one of the most popular Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s works: “Winter”, and it also represents its cultural topicality.

        (Picture taken by Enrico Mercatali)


Giuseppe Arcimboldo, "Winter", realized in 1563, Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum
Milan, in Palazzo Reale, from February 10th to May 22th 2011

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, "Sledge with peacock", pen, blue ink and watercolor cm 15,7 x 18,75
Drawings and Prints Room, Uffizi (Florence)

The modern artist, who anticipates 18th, 19th and 20th Century vanguards, is the protagonist of an exhibition which will appeal visitors from all over the World 

In this image "The librarian", Oil on canvas cm 97 x 71, from  Skokloster Castle, Styrelsen, Sweden

The next 10th of February is going to be inaugurated in Milan, in Palazzo Reale’s rooms, an exhibition really awaited and excellent for the provenience of the works, and the prestige of the team that took care of it and realized its project.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, self-portrait, 1575, Pen and blue watercolor on paper, cm 23 x 15,7, Narodni Galerie, Prague

The exhibition’s curator is the director of the picture gallery of Kunthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the prestigious museum which, together with the Louvre Museum in Paris, contains the most part of the works. She works in close collaboration with the qualified composition of the Scientific Commitee constituted by Giacomo Berra, Giulio Bora, Chiara Buss, Silvio Leydi, Roberto Miller, Giuseppe Olmi, Caterina Pirina, Francesco Porzio and Lucia Tomasi Tongiorgi.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Project for costume "The Dragon", pen, blue ink and water color on paper, 29 x 19 cm. Drawings and Prints Room Uffizi (Florence)

What these experts tried to recompose is the context in which Arcimboldo’s art had its origin: the cultural and artistic setting of Milan during the age of Leonardo, in the 16th Century. This equipe has also proposed examining the culutral roots in which the young artist lived, inside the Milanese environment, since they broguht him to investigate and develope the theme of still life. This element has then spread over with Caravaggio, as part of an investigation method which is at the origin of Arcimboldo’s art, and has had a great success during the following centuries all over Europe, until becoming a background for the 20th-Century-artistic vanguards.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, "The Water", Oil painting of 1566, Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum

Animal species which compose the allegory (see the legend below):
FISHES: 1. Murena Murena (Teleost)- 2, Mola Mola, Moon fish (Teleost)- 3, Hippocampus Hippocampus, Sea horse (Teleost)- 4, Salmo Trutta (Adriatic trout) (Teleost)- 5, Belone belone, Garfish (Teleost)- 6, Sciaena Umbra, Corvina (Teleost)- 7, Exos Lucius, Pike (Teleost)- 8, Lota Elongata, Molva Occhiona (Teleost)- 9, Cyclopterus, Lumpfish (Teleost)- 10, Cyclopterus, Lumpfish (Teleost)- 11, Botide (Teleost)- 12, Labride, Labrus Tardus, Thrush (Telost)- 13, Triglide, Capone (Teleost)- 14, Triglide Capone (Teleost)- 15, Agonus, Sorcio di Mare (Teleost)- 16, Pegasus (Teleost)- 17, Raja, Raja Clavata, Ray (Teleost)- 18, Head of a  Teleost (Teleost)- 19, Catfish- 20, Head of a Teleost- 21, Head of a Teleost after desiccation - 22, Head of a Teleost - 23, id.- 24, id.- 25, Dorsal fin of Callyonimus, Terragon- 26, Caudal fin  of a Teleost- 27, id- 28, Gills of a Teleost- 29, Skin of Scylioirhinus canicula, Dogfish, Selaci- 30, Shark with barbs (Eterodontide)- 31, Spike, with supernumerary gills.

AMPHIBIANS: 32, Temporaria Frog- REPTILES 33, Caretta caretta, Tartaruga Caretta (Chelonidi)- MAMMALS: 34, Pelagius Monachus, Seal (Pinnipeds)- 35, Head of seal (Pinnipeds)- 36, id.- 37, Figure of a Pinniped similar to an amphibian- INVERTEBRATES: CNIDARIA: 38, Corallium Rubrum, Red Coral (Esacoralli)- 39, Profile of Sea Fin (Pennatulacei)- PLATYHELMINTHES 40, Planaria, Turbellaria- ANELLIDA POLICHAETA: 41, Anellida of Phillodocidae family- 42, non-identifiable Anellida- CLITELLATA: 43, Irudineo, Sea leech- SHELLFISHES: 44, Tritonium nodiferum, Triton nodifer (Prosobranchia)- 45,Buccium, Jack (Prosobranchia)- 46, 1d- 47, non-identifiable- 48, Slugs (Pulmonates)- LAMELLIBRANCHS: 49, Arca, Ark (Filibranchs)- 50, Cardium (Eulamellibranchs)- 51, id- 52, Pearl of Oyster- 53, Pearls of Oysters- CEPHALOPODS: 54, Sepia Officinalis, Common sepia (Decapoda)- 55, Octopus, Octopus (Octopoda)- CRUSTACEANS: 56, Squilla Mantis, squill (Hoplocarida)- 57, Astacus fluviatidis, crayfish, Peracarida Decapoda- 58, Palaemon, (cooked), Shrimp, Perecarida Decapoda- 59, Cancer Pagurus, Sleepyhead, Peracarida Decapoda- 60, Astacus Astacus, Crayfish- ECHINODERMS: 61, Asteroidea- ECHINOIDEA: 62, Crown with rays whose aspect reminds of quills of  Cidaroida. OBSERVATIONS: the number of the species represented is lightly higher than the number of identified species. Some animals are represented in a way too concise to allow a certain diagnosis. You can see how the different animals are not represented on the same scale. Some represented animals don’t correspond to well-known organisms. Some anatomical characters appear as voluntarily modified, especially eyes, which get a humanoid look, both for the shape and the exaggeration of their dimensions. (Taxonomic card determined with the collaboration of the Ichthyology of the Natural History Museum in Paris, by Pierre Noel and Jean Depeche - Paris)

Even though this critical linear interpretation is by now universally shared, at the base of the recent success that most of the organized exhibitions about Arcimboldo’s art have had, what the equipe wants to do today in the Milanese exhibition is to investigate in the opposite direction, or rather about the reasons that brought so many following imitations and inspirations of Arcimboldo’s effects; and this will be possible by looking especially at his past, at the origins of his career.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, The Jurist, 1566, Oil on Canvas, cm 64 x 51, Statens Konstsamlingar Gripsholm Slott, Sweden

That’s the reason of the importance of the Lombard investigations, as well as the culture around which Leonardo himself has worked, the artistic Milanese workshops during the period of Grand Duke Moro, the comparison between Arcimboldo’s early paintings with the naturalistic Lombard illustration between the 15th and the 16th Century; a great importance is also given to the role of the systematic scientific investigation, which has had its best theorist in Leonardo, whose studies turned towards “typifying” human expressions basing on genre, age, character etc., constitute a philosophical theoretical summary of the topic treated by the artist, whose figure summarizes in itself every speculative quality. It’s in the turmoil of these elements that the figure of Arcimboldo grows, and the artist dedicates to it in a sort of exclusive way, unwittingly laying  the foundations for a long-lived and persistent future of art.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, "Vertunno", portrait of Rodolfo II d'Asburgo 
(Emperor of the Sacred Roman Empire between 1576 and 1612),
carried out in 1590, Oil on board cm 70,5 x 57,5, Sloklosters Slott, Sweden

This is the occasion, with Arcimboldo in an exhibition, for deepening his themes, his characteristics and above all the visual pleasure that comes along with it!

Maybe also for this reason the exhibition is an occasion to incline young people to art, because it makes them smile. These are the words of “Giorno dei Ragazzi” in order to promote the exhibition:
“Arcimboldo milanese artist- between Leonardo and Caravaggio”: Arcimboldo was born in Milan in 1527, at that time Giuseppe Arcimboldi, son of Biagio, painter in the Dome Factory. He was therefore a son of Art, but the classic case where the son surpasses his father-master in fame and ability. In Milan he got to know Leonardo’s art, from which he drew inspiration above all from his caricatures of human heads, a sit is said; Arcimboldo elaborates them in an original way, using  Nature’s fruits to compose them. This inspiration brings him to become one of the first ones to start a new pictorial theme, the one of “still life”.

 Giuseppe Arcimboldo, "Market Gardener", reversibile Still life, 1590, Oil on board, cm 35 x 24, 
Civic Museum Ala Ponzone, Cremona

Here’s the reason for the smiles: not because nature is ridiculous in itself, but because of the fantasy of being representated in such a “living” way! In any case, this theme will inspire in its turn Michelangelo Merisi, Caravaggio, born in this same town, who owes his nickname to the origins of the family (Cravaggio, in the province of Bergamo).

  Giuseppe Arcimboldo, "Market Gardener", reversibile Still-life, 1590, Oil on board, cm 35 x 24, 
Civic Museum Ala Ponzone, Cremona

In Palazzo Reale other than Arcimboldo’s most famous paintings (the cycle of Four Elements, of Four Seasons, the “reversibile” heads, which you can look at upside down) you will find Leonardo and Girolamo della Porta’s sketches, and the work of a contemporary artist, the american Philip Haas: 5 meters of fiberglass, obviously inspired by the eccentric Milanese artist.

 Giuseppe Arcimboldo, " The Fire " , 1566, Oil on Board cm 66,5 x 51, 
Gemaldegalerie, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

This is what “La Repubblica” says: “ He entered art’s legend with his triumphs of fruit and vegetables, waterfalls of apples and red peppers orchestrated on the board so as to form faces of nobles, ladies with shrimp-shaped eyes, knights with helmets made out of eggplants and courtiers with a ruff made out of asparagus and herbs.
Arcimboldo, the Milanese painter of the 16th Century, invented a genre hung between portraiture and still life.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, project for a costume: "Cook", pen, blue ink and watercolor on paper, cm 30,5 x 20, 
Drawings and Prints Room, Uffizi, Florence

This is a thing for which he became famous, and contributed to make him being remembered as a great caricaturist, even though his story is much more complicated. This is revealed by the exhibition “Arcimboldo- Milanese artis between Leonardo and Caravaggio” in Palazzo Reale, produced by the city of Milan and Skira in collaboration with the Kunsthistorisches of Vienna (from which a lot of displayed works come from). Masterpieces of him and authors who interwove his story, useful to restore the atmosphere of an age marked by the luxury industry in the richest European courts.

Timetable: 09.30-19.30 (Monday14.30-19.30; thursday and saturday 09.30-22.30). Until the 22th of May.

Enrico Mercatali
Milan February 8th 2011
English version 26th of March 2011
(translation from italian by Penelope Mirotti)

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