Giuseppe Arcimboldo

1527 - 1593

Renaissance Art Map
Giuseppe Arcimboldo
    Life and work of Acimboldo
    Arcimboldo's Pictures
    Arcimboldo's Vertumnus
    Arcimboldo as a Scientist
    Arcimboldo's Drawings




Arcimboldo's Drawings


In 1585 Arcimboldo presented Emperor Rudolph II with a
folio of red morocco leather containing about 150 blue
pen-and-ink drawings. This folio is now in the Uffizi in
Florence and bears the following Latin inscription:



Dedicated to


by Giuseppe Arcimboldo of Milan:
sundry different ideas designed by his own hand
for the furnishing of tournaments.

These sketches are drawings which Arcimboldo made specially for the processions and balls of the Hapsburg emperors. Most of them were designed for the wedding celebrations of Archduke Charles of Styria and Mary of Bavaria in 1571, some of them for several other feasts, and the remaining ones cannot be dated. The sketches were made in the traditional style, with their plasticity heightened by the use of blue prepared paper. The costumes and hairstyles were modelled on contemporary designs. We have to bear in mind, of course, that the sketches were meant to serve as instructions for the tailors and seamsters who made the costumes, and it is therefore more appropriate to look at them from a historical point of view, rather than an artistic one. The diversity of these drawings gives us a good idea of Arcimboldo's wealtbof imagination.
The festive processions which Arcimboldo helped to organize as a designer served to glorify the Emperor, and this was also the function of the artist's pictures. According to DaCosta Kaufmann, the political function and the sumptuous style of such festivities have been well documented by Giovanni Battista Fonteo's poems and descriptions. Archduke Charles' wedding festivities of 1571 are described in a panegyric by Fonteo, who gives a very graphic and detailed account of the feast. The following description is taken from Andreas Beyer, Arcimboldo, Figurinen, where a summary of the panegyric can be found.
At the beginning of the ceremonies there was always what was known as a circle race, which took place in an open field outside the city walls. An artificial hill was erected there, as well as two pyramids to mark the tilting-ground. Juno, the patron goddess of weddings, was the first to enter the scene, standing in a carriage pulled by peacocks. She was accompanied by the three kings of the continents Africa, Asia and America. All four characters were played by members of the Imperial family. During the games that followed the procession they acted as mantenitori, i. e. as observers and referees. Juno was followed by Iris, who descended from a cloud and gave the call to begin the contest. Other goddesses then entered the scene. There was Europa riding a horse disguised as a bull, followed by the Sirens and the Seven Liberal Arts. In Fonteo's poem these artes liberates are described as the children of Mercury, played by seven noblemen, the Emperor's chamberlains. Each of the arts was accompanied by two of its most typical representatives.
Rhetorick, for example, appeared together with Demosthenes and Cicero. The Florence folio included all seven designs. At the top of each sketch there is a description of the festive garments as well the names of the two accompanying representatives of the discipline.
Then there was Diana, accompanied by a unicorn and a group of attendants and followed by her entourage of noblemen disguised as wild animals. In her train were a group of wild men with horn and amazons carrying bows, arrows and spears.
Next came Neptune, surrounded by men who were disguised as the kinds offish that could be found in the waters around Europe.
Neptune's group was followed by that of Pallas Athene, who was standing on the platform of a carriage, side by side with an owl which had four placards fastened to it. These placards bore the names of four vices. There were also the Cardinal Virtues, accompanied by a figure which personified Victory. Justice, Fortitude and Temperance were always played by members of the Imperial family and nobility. Together with Venus, who was surrounded by Amori, there was also an allegorical figure symbolizing Greed. In the records of the festivities it is mentioned that Bacchus was played by a man in a tub and that he and his entourage caused a lot of hilarity among the spectators. Bacchus was followed by four noblemen symbolizing the four elements. These appeared together with four men representing the four winds, and four gods bearing the four metals that belonged to them; and there were also four European rivers and four European nations disguised as four different ages of mankind. The four nations were accompanied by the four seasons as well as some horn players representing the east wind and Mars holding a piece of iron. After an allegorical figure representing Spring there was another carriage with a platform. Representing the river Po, it characterized the whole group which preceded it as the Italian contingent.
The Spanish group was led by Zephyrus and two other west winds. The figure of Fire was followed by the Sun carrying the Spanish element, gold. Rudolph II, who was the heir to the throne and had been brought up at the Spanish court, was the personification of the Sun in this group. The river Iberus concluded the Spanish group.
The south wind which, together with the south-west and south-east winds, led the Gaulish group was represented by horn players. The Earth was followed by Jupiter bearing a gift from Gaul: tin. Before the river Rhone concluded this group, there were some more noblemen, including one disguised as a French knight and symbolizing Autumn.
The last group was the German one, led by the north winds. The goddess Luna, who was bearing the German metal, silver, was preceded by a personification of the element water. Maximilian II, dressed as Winter, was the leader of the German group, which was concluded by the Danube.
The first day ended with a dinner and a ball, to which all the guests came dressed in magnificent costumes. On the second day the allegorical fun was concluded with a further procession.



Design of a sledge
Blue pen-and-wash drawing, 19 x 23 cm



Design of a custome for Cerberus,
probably from Diana's group in the festive procession in Vienna, 1571.
Blue pen-and-wash drawing, 29 x 19 cm,



Design of a dragon-like costume for a horse
Blue pen-and-wash drawing, 25 x 19 cm



Drawing of an elephant
Ink drawing, 24 x 18.7 cm

The procession of 1570 was the first occasion in Europe when an elephant was shown.



Design of a costume for "Geometry"
in the festive procession in Vienna, 1571.
Blue pen-and-wash drawing, 39 x 20 cm
Inscription at the top:
"Geometry, led by Archimedes the Sicilian and Archita the Calabrese. Dark grey garment."



Design of a costume for "Musick"
in the festive procession in Vienna, 1571.
Blue pen-and-wash drawing, 30 x 20 cm
Inscription at the top:
"Musick, led by Boethius the Roman and Arion the Greek. Yellow garment with red stripes, the tassels of the bodice in gold, and the others in silver."



Design of a costume for "Rhetorick"
in the festive procession in Vienna, 1571.
Blue pen-and-wash drawing, 30 x 20 cm
Inscription at the top:
"Rhetorick, led by Cicero the Roman and Demosthenes the Athenean. Red garment."



Design of a costume for "Astrology"
in the festive procession in Vienna, 1571.
Blue pen-and-wash drawing, 30 x 20 cm
Inscription at the top:
"Astrology, led by Ptolemy the Alexandrian and Julius Hyginus the Roman. White garment, the edges in red with gold stars."


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