The Milan-born painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, who numbered several archbishops of that city among his ancestors, was early in the employ of the later Emperor Ferdinand I, working with his father on the decoration of Milan Cathedral. Starting in 1562 he was imperial court painter in Vienna and Prague. In addition to his work as a portraitist, he was praised for his achievements as director and decorator of courtly tournaments and wedding celebrations. However, in 1563 he created a series of paintings of the seasons, and their uniqueness is responsible for the posthumous reputation of the painter, who was rediscovered in the 19th century. Two other paintings of the series have been preserved in addition to the present Summer: Winter (KHM, GG 1590) and Spring (?) (Madrid, Real Academia de Bellas Artes de SanFernando). A later (1572) complete version of the series is in the Louvre in Paris. Another series, created in 1566 and depicting the four elements Fire(KHM, GG 1585), Water (KHM, GG 427), Air and Earth is important in understanding the season paintings. All of these heads were created according to the same unique principle: they are composed of plants, animals and objects appropriate to the respective theme, without a single natural feature of the human face. In 1569 the humanist Giovanni Baptista Fonteo wrote several poems dedicated to Maximilian II, which are key to understanding the project. Based on the Aristotelian philosophy of the comparability of the micro- and macrocosms, the poems formulate all-encompassing praise for the ruler. The emperor has power over the state and people, and thus over nature and the world. There is perfect harmony between the “seasons” and the “elements”: summer and fire are hot and dry, winter and water cold and wet, whereas spring and air are hot and wet, autumn and earth cold and dry. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010


  • Title: Summer
  • Creator: Giuseppe Arcimboldo
  • Creator Lifespan: 1527/1593
  • Creator Nationality: italian
  • Creator Gender: male
  • Creator Death Place: Milan
  • Creator Birth Place: Milan
  • Date Created: 1563
  • Style: Italian Mannerism
  • Provenance: probably painted for Archduke Maximilian (Emperor Maximilian II)
  • Physical Dimensions: w508 x h670 cm (without frame)
  • Inventory Number: GG 1589
  • Type: paintings
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/picture-gallery
  • Medium: Oil on Wood

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