“A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”: Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593) would beg to differ with American expatriate Gertrude Stein and her oft-quoted adage. To the Milanese painter of the Mannerist style, a rose was a metaphor, a device, a part of his allegorical composite portrait Spring (cover). Milan, the powerful city-state, kept Arcimboldo and his artistic forefathers busy with ecclesiastical commissions. Giuseppe and his father Biagio created cathedral art in Como (home of Biagio's brother Ambrogio, another artist), as well as in Milan. Elaborate stained glass windows—Giuseppe's Saint Catherine of Alexandria still shines in the Milan cathedral—and tapestry design comprised only a few of his creative endeavors. However, a more plentiful future awaited the younger Arcimboldo at the Holy Roman Empire's court in Vienna and later in Prague. After many invitations, Arcimboldo acquiesced and joined the Hapsburg court in 1562; he remained part of the royal entourage until his semiretirement. Arcimboldo had by then served three emperors (Ferdinand I, Maximilian II, and Rudolf II) and secured his reputation as court painter, premier designer of festivals and tournaments, and royal trickster. Spectacles created for the court, including the lavish wedding of Archduke Charles (once considered a serious suitor for Queen Elizabeth I of England) to Maria of Bavaria, often bore Arcimboldo's clever stamp.
Torpy JM. Spring. JAMA. 2009;301(11):1102. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.221