Food as Art: The Works of Giuseppe Arcimboldo
Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526 or 1527 – July 11, 1593) was an Italian painter best known for creating imaginative portrait heads made entirely of objects such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, and books.

Today’s Activities



Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526 or 1527 – July 11, 1593) was an Italian painter best known for creating imaginative portrait heads made entirely of objects such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, and books. Arcimboldo found ways to create the appearance of human heads from numerous everyday items, adding a distinct touch of humor to art history. Was his work art? Was it irreverent satire? Like his unusual paintings, Arcimboldo may have found a way to combine both into one.

Watch this short slide show with examples of his paintings:

And this short video with a description of his works:

Select one of Arcimboldo’s paintings.  List as many items possible (types of fruit, etc.) that he used to create the portrait.



Giuseppe Arcimboldo quickly gained a reputation for a style of art that was comical, intellectual, and unique. He first premiered this style in 1569, when he unveiled two sets of portraits on New Year’s Day. One set, The Four Seasons, included figures representing spring, summer, fall, and winter. The other, The Four Elements, did the same in personifying earth, water, fire, and air. Arcimboldo’s portraits used combinations of natural items to look like human heads. 

Read these two short articles about two of Arcimboldo’s famous works:

Read this article with more detail about his life and the works he created: An Eye for Art – Questioning Traditions – Giuseppe Arcimboldo



Using this short video, examine more details of Arcimboldo’s work:

Painter Arcimboldo and His Unique Style of Portraiture

Describe three techniques that Arcimboldo used in his portraits that were unique.  What were the different moods he was trying to create with his paintings?  What is the significance of the items he chose to create his portraits, as they related to the topic of his paintings?



What was the impact that Arcimboldo had on art, both while he was alive and centuries after he died?



Create a portrait using Arcimboldo’s style.  Decide on the theme of the portrait, then gather materials that can be used within that theme.  For example, small rocks, leaves, acorns, flowers, sticks for a nature theme.  In place of gathering items, you can also draw a portrait using representations of fruit, vegetables, etc.

For more details about Arcimboldo’s life and work, enjoy this video: Arcimboldo: Nature and Fantasy

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