Rudolf II of Habsburg as Vertumnus (detail).

With the spring here starting to show its reluctant face it’s an apt moment to find a handful of Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s paintings at the Google Art Project. Vertumnus is the perennial favourite, Arcimboldo’s portrait of his patron, Rudolf II of Hapsburg, as the Roman god of the seasons. I’ve always thought this portrait flattered Rudolf more than those which faithfully depict his homely features. We’re told the Emperor was very pleased with his fruity likeness.


Rudolf II of Habsburg as Vertumnus (1590).


Summer (1563).


Four Seasons in One Head (c. 1590).

Previously on { feuilleton }
Arcimboldo’s Four Elements

3 thoughts on “Vertumnus”

  1. In one of the novels that makes up John Crowley’s Aegypt sequence there’s a scene with Arcimboldo and Emperor Rudolf contemplating his paintings. I believe it occurs in Daemonomania/Autumn. It’s a really neat and moving scene and reflects on the different members of Rudolf’s household and how they were rendered.

  2. I seem to recall an Angela Carter story where Arcimboldo is bringing vegetable people to life via alchemy. Or something…I forget the details. (John Dee was at Rudolf’s court for a while.) And the paintings make an appearance in the Quay Brothers’ wonderful short film about Jan Svankmajer, many of Svankmajer’s own films employing the same technique of creating faces from disparate objects.

  3. The Gazoogle says “Alice in Prague or the Curious Room”. I had forgotten that story; thanks for the reminder!

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