>Arcimboldo, Chester Dale and Post Postmodernism


 Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-93) was  a painter at the court of  Ferdinand I  in Vienna , and later for Maximilan  II and Rudolf II when  the Hapsburg court moved to Prague due to religious reasons.  His work is easily recognizable for its use of fruits, vegetables and flower depicting human faces. Scientifically correct, these paintings were likely in vogue at the time, and do not represent a crazed artist’s work.

Currently Washington D.C. has the first ever Arcimboldo exhbit in the U.S. at the National Gallery, one of my favorite museums.

We drove past the White House, where Obama was nursing his stitches. The exhibit was great. My favorite was “Water” (right).

You can see the crab that makes the breast, the ray that is a cheek, and my favorite, the baby seal that comprises the forehead (so cute). These depictions were definitive of the era’s concern with natural wonders, or wunderkammer.

There was also an exhibit of all the works acquired by stock broker Chester Dale. At the end of a large collections of Picassos, Matisses, Renoirs, Monets, Manets, and tons more was a portrait of the man done by Dali.

Isn’t this weird? It really struck me as one of those portraits definitive of an epoch. Look at what Dale’s wearing, that black poodle. This is a 20th century painting. Makes me think of how people in post postmodernism will remember last century.

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

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