Attention, exceptional exhibition! The Museum of the Luxembourg in Paris shows the work of an Italian master of the Renaissance which belongs, and is rare in the collective imagination. As explained in the brilliant curator Sylvia Ferino, specialist of the Italian Renaissance to the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, "Giuseppe Arcimboldo, if he had lived in our time would have been a designer or a fashion designer. "In fact it is an inventor." Inventor of what Grotesque figures composed of disparate objects assembled with maestria, such that a strong expression emanates from these curious faces. The power of the Arcimboldo canvases that only true with reproductions or subsequent copies is magnetic.
In fact the body of artwork painted by this artist (1526-1593) is today particularly restricted. There are approximately 30 tables of the master in museums and private collections. It said "approximately" because the subject is at the centre of endless quarrels of experts. The artist, who had a unmistakable sense of self-promotion to the trade, was much repeated and repeated by his workshop, the paintings to success which were sold to prominent personalities.
His hand or not: in the exhibition of the Museum of the Luxembourg, there is the question. It is clear that some canvases, in public as the Kunsthistorisches four collections are of exceptional quality while others, often resulting from private collections, are of a poor baffling as is the case with "Flore" a canvas representing a woman made of flowers and leaves. It would have liked that the organizers are more likely to write "workshop of" or "entourage of" when the paintings raise a doubt.
The exhibition opens on a self-portrait of the artist at the age of sixty-one. He drew his face and his costume with a learned interlacings of rolls of parchment which highlight its wrinkles, his beard and his hair wavy. The exercise is as usual bizarre and very successful. But the message issued by this sheet goes further. Arcimboldo was before any intellectual, more that artist. Other classical works, i.e. "normal", as the portrait possibly of his hand that it sees in the exhibition, are poor, and the cardboard of a tapestry dated 1558 representing the Dormition of the Virgin.
It is around 1563 Milanese Arcimboldo was hired as official portraitist in Vienna. It first repeat old portraits of Habsburg, and emancipates amount to his composite heads. In different versions of the painting "Summer" the nose consists of a cucumber, the eye of a grape, the cheek of a fishery, the Chin of a PEAR and the upper lip of cherries. You can see in the exhibition that this concept even Assembly to form a figure had already been used ten years earlier by a faÔencier of Urbino which represented a human profile based on phallus.
Arcimboldo adds among others a talent for the representation of the details of the nature and for example "The water" of 1566 shows an infinite wealth of sea creatures that some specialists had fun in detail, the Pike in the hippocampus of the coral in the slug.
The surprise of the exhibition comes from a few lesser-known paintings. To talk about trivialement they have a "thing", are read backwards as in place, while wearing a different meaning. To please the Emperor Maximilian II and his court Arcimboldo is portraits of the circle of the monarch.
"The Cook" oil on wood of 1570 figure for example certainly the portrait of the officer of the Court, the Superintendent of the Royal House and the Imperial table. At first glance the composition shows only pigs of milk in a dish of Tin. A character that is seen as the hands raises the lid. In a reflection of the mirror is a thankless head presented three quarters and capped with a hat the dish. The eye of the chicken is in the eye of the character. The style of composition, very free, gives an almost modern invoice. Arcimboldo drawn to astonish, to many titles.