Way back in the day of Leonardo da Vinci, another man invented his own strange obsession with fruits and veggies, among other inanimate objects. His name was Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526-1593), perhaps one of the world’s first authentic foodies.
From the New York Times review of Arcimboldo’s exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris through Jan. 13; written by Michael Kimmelman:
“Arcimboldo’s subject was the instability of life, its changeability in a widening world, his purpose being to inspire a fresh but not always entirely comforting sense of possibility and wonderment. Mercantile conquests by 16th-century European powers, France included, uncovered new continents, from which an ear of corn, exotic and rare, could serve not just as a visual pun for a human ear but also as a political symbol of faraway places, economies, peoples — of nature itself — brought to heel.”
While working for Maximilian II and later, his son Rudolph II in Vienna, Kimmelman comments that Arcimboldo “catered to a fixation on the marvelous. Coconuts, conch shells, ostrich eggs and coral, gathered from the distant corners of the earth, become goblets, bowls and hilts for swords, three-dimensional versions of his painted faces. They’re about art’s roots in mysticism and magic. Painting itself is a sleight-of-hand trick, after all: colored dirt becomes an illusion.”
Wow. Makes you appreciate the natural beauty — and the quirky artistic possibility — of every food that graces our daily table.
Photo credit: Skokloster Castle, Sweden
For the complete NYT Kimmleman review of the exhibition, visit