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Art History        < Previous


Puzzle Portraits of Arcimboldo


Today's Snack: Italian artist Giuseppe (jih SEP pee) Arcimboldo (ar chim BOLD o) made collage-style portraits as a masterpiece - but you can make an EDIBLE collage portrait as a SNACK!

Take a plain rice cake, and choose a spread for it - peanut butter, almond butter, softened cream cheese or hummus are all tasty.

Using a knife or the back of a spoon, apply the spread to one whole side of a rice cake. Then add small bits of food for eyes, nose, mouth, eyebrows and other parts of the face.

Examples: raisins, banana slices, carrot shreds, dry cereal, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, grated or shredded cheese, coconut shreds, or bits of cut-up pear. Now eat your edible masterpiece with a glass of milk.





If possible, show this on a large screen for a group:


Magazines or catalogs for collage pictures

(gardening, cooking, agriculture, travel, nature, wellness, etc.)


OR items collected on a "nature art scavenger hunt"

(grass, flat pebbles, pine cones, etc.)


Kid-safe scissors | Cardstock | Gluesticks, glue, or tape


For this activity you will need to track down a set of four paintings by Giuseppe Arcimboldo (also spelled Arcimboldi). They are called Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter from the Four Seasons series that was commissioned in 1573. They represent an early example of the art form know as "collage" (co LAHJ) and are very innovative and imaginative.


All four paintings are in the Louvre museum in Paris. You can find images of the paintings at the link, above, or in an encyclopedia article on Giuseppe Arcimboldo. Look at his paintings and start getting ideas, because you are going to get to make a portrait the same way Giuseppe did!


Here's a look at "Spring":



"Spring" from "Four Seasons" by Guiseppe Arcimboldo, 1569



Giuseppe was the son of a painter. He grew up learning to paint in Italy in the 1500s. When he was a young man, an emperor from a northern land invited Giuseppe to become his court painter. Giuseppe accepted the invitation and worked for the emperor in the cities called Vienna and Prague.


The emperor asked Giuseppe to paint a series of four paintings, each related to one of the four seasons - spring, summer, fall and winter. The emperor planned to give these paintings as gifts to one of the noblemen in his land.


After you have found images of the paintings on the Internet or in a book, can you guess why Giuseppe painted them the way he did?


The emperor was one of the leading collectors of his time. What did he collect? You name it, he collected it!


Because the emperor had vast amounts of objects on hand, Giuseppe had many objects to examine and paint.


The emperor did not have just one category of things that he collected. He collected things that come from nature and things made by humans. The things from nature included gems, fossils, nuts, dried plants, antlers, shells, husks, and corals. The things made by humans included many kinds of art, like paintings, sculptures, textiles, jewelry, coins, books, and drawings.


The emperor kept the small pieces of his collections in furniture called "curiosity cabinets." They had drawers with partitioned sections, kind of like a drawer that you might have in your kitchen that has different sections for the forks, spoons, and knives.


Because the emperor had so many objects that were carefully classified into categories, it is not hard to imagine that Giuseppe pictured the objects in his mind like puzzle pieces, and then painted them in the shape of people.


Art that makes an impression of what a person looks like, or that pretends to copy what a person looks like, is called a portrait.


Now let's make our own art! You can make your own puzzle portrait just like Giuseppe.


First, ask an adult to help you find some old magazines and cut out pictures from the magazines. Or, if you'd prefer, take a walk outside in nature and collect items such as small pine cones, flat rocks, flat flowers, pretty rocks, etc. You can call it a "nature art scavenger hunt."


If you're looking in magazines or catalogs, look for some pictures of objects from nature, and some pictures of objects made by humans.


Next, lay out all of your pictures or nature items on a large surface like a table or the floor. While you are looking at the collection of pictures that you have just collected, decide what category of things will make up your puzzle pieces for your portrait.


Will the pieces be pictures of vegetables? Or flowers? Or jewelry? Or something else?


Next, take a blank piece of cardstock and draw the outline of a person with a pencil. If you draw an outline of yourself, that's a special kind of portrait called a self-portrait.


Once you have the outline drawn, you can glue your puzzle pieces onto the cardstock to finish your puzzle portrait.


Bravo! (That's how Giuseppe would say "good job!" in Italian.)


By Susan Darst Williams Art History 2011




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