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Giuseppe Arcimboldo was born on July 11, 1527, in Milan, Italy. Biagio Arcimboldo, his father, was an artist. Giuseppe would start his career at 21 years, and just like his father, as a designer for frescoes and stained glass for the local churches and cathedrals.
The first breakthrough of his career came in 1549 when he was commissioned to create stained glass designs for the Milan Cathedral. This was followed by other important commissions. Soon, the artist was assigned to painted frescoes at the Monza Cathedral. In 1558, he designed the tapestry depicting the Dormition of the Virgin, which is still on display to this day at the Cathedral of Como, in Lombardi.
By 35 years old, Arcimboldo already became a court portraitist to the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I at the court of Habsburg in Vienna. The artist would also be a court painter, costume designer, and decorator to the court of subsequent Emperors, such as Maximillian II Rudolf II, his son. Twenty-five years of Arcimboldo’s career was serving the Habsburg house.
Although his artworks were quite unconventional for the time, Arcimboldo was received by the Habsburg house as a celebrated Renaissance painter. The Habsburg court cultivated progressive thinking and regarded itself as the leading center for science and art in Europe, which gave the artist plenty of creative freedom. Said liberty created a fertile environment where was able Arcimboldo to truly blossom as an artist.
Arcimboldo was not seen as a mere court painter. The artist would exert a significant influence on the Emperors, not only artistically but also personally. For instance, the Arcimboldo assisted Ferdinand I in expanding his cabinet of curiosities, which held several animals, exotic plant species, artworks, and objects. During his period at the Habsburg court, Arcimboldo was exposed and influenced by the artworks of many distinguished painters, such as Brueghel, Bosch, Hans Baldung Grien, Albrecht Altdorfer, and Lucas Cranach, the Elder.
Rudolf II was the last Emperor that Arcimboldo worked for. This period is often regarded as the pinnacle of his career, for the Emperor neutered personal interest in botany, horticulture, exotic creatures, and art as a whole.
Arcimboldo continued to paint until the very end of his life. Some of his most notable artworks of this period are his Self-portrait as the Four Seasons, Autumn, Spring, Summer, and Winter, as well as Vertumnus, depicting Rudolf II as the god of metamorphosis.
Giuseppe Arcimboldo died on July 11, 1593, in Milan.