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Arts et Sociétés - Thomas D. Kaufmann



The works for which Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593) is most famous are heads composed out of fruits, flowers, animals, birds, and objects pertaining to the subject represented, some of which when turned upside down are still lifes.
Arcimboldo’s paintings have often been considered as precursors to surrealism and exemplars of Mannerism. Recently debates have also arisen about how their visual paradoxes are to be read, and where Arcimboldo first executed these striking inventions. This lecture considers his intriguing paintings as metamorphoses of nature. Their incorporation of studies of nature and symbolic elements had a
particular appeal to the Austrian Habsburgs, and could only have originated at the imperial court. Their apparent paradoxes are not to be understood as some kind of mise en abyme, but stem from a strong sixteenth-century current of serious jokes (e.g. Sebastian Brant, Rabelais) especially represented by the tradition of Erasmus, which was strong in Arcimboldo’s circles at the Habsburg court.


Laurence Bertrand Dorléac


Thomas D. KAUFMANN, Professeur à Princeton University
Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann is Frederick Marquand Professor of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University. A member of the Royal Flemish, Royal Swedish, and Polish academies of science, among other honors and fellowships he has been awarded the Palacký medal by the Czech Academy of Sciences and honorary doctorates from the Technical University, Dresden and the Masaryk University, Brno. He has published thirteen books that have been translated into a variety of languages, has edited four more, and has written well over 200 articles and reviews. A comprehensive global history of art written by him together with Elizabeth Pilliod is in press.