Make whatever sacrifice you have to, but unless you were in Washington last Autumn and caught the National Gallery of Art’s exhibition of the work of Arcimboldo there, seize any chance to travel to Milan, Italy, and see it there from January 27th to May 8th 2011. It’s coming on at the Palazzo Reale. Arcimboldo was born in Milan, but became an unrivalled magician at ambiguous images, working four hundred years ago, mostly at the dazzling court of the Emperor Rudolph in Prague. This is his painting of Summer, usually in the Louvre in Paris, and one of a set of paintings of the four seasons.
There’s still a movie about Arcimboldo, available in various formats, to the right on the Washington National Gallery’s website for the show, along with details of a huge sculpture that was in the Washington show, of the painting Winter from the same series of the seasons, by film-maker and sculptor Philip Haas.
We know Arcimboldo didn’t invent this kind of image, if only because of a rather naughty example on a 450 year old dish in the Ashmolean Museum. But he inspired many of the generations of artists, and later psychologists, working with the ambiguous images that you can see in our Ambiguous Images category.