The Allegory of Water Giuseppe Arcimboldo Buy Art Prints Now
from Amazon

* As an Amazon Associate, and partner with Google Adsense and Ezoic, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

Giuseppe Arcimboldo presented two series; the elements and seasons, the two types of painting themes he looked at when coming up with a painting. The elements include fire, air, water and earth. The elements were made of different components to create a particular artwork.

The allegory of the water element is under the category of figurative painting. Allegory arts are where the subjects or elements that form their composition symbolize a spiritual meaning like death, life, love and justice, or a deeper moral. Allegorical arts are used widely to explain the history of something. The word allegory, in this case, is used as a metaphor to stand for the curves, forms and movements of fish and other aquatic animals. Giuseppe Arcimboldo created the allegory of water by employing water creatures’ images. The artwork was created in 1566, and it is located in the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna, Austria.

The painting is generally a collection of different kinds of fish. It occurs as the most realistic artwork. Arcimboldo brilliantly worked on this painting by combining water animals, shells and corals to make a court lady’s face. The head is made up of dark and faint animals, but a crown is clearly formed by spines on the fish’s back and pieces of long corals. Her breastplate is represented by a turtle, crab and lobster. The turtle is bigger and half the size of a lobster and a crab; therefore, they fill the same place approximately. An octopus along the shoulders represents the woman’s shoulders. A shark forms the mouth of the woman. The shark is a terrifying animal but less frightening because it is hidden under a ray of the same size as the shark. Some types of jewelry are portrayed in this artwork. A necklace hanging on the woman’s neck that seems out of place and an earring on her ear made using pearls are evident. This completes the order of the pattern of the water painting.

The presence of jewelry does not change Arcimboldo’s theme of water as the jewelry is made from the products of the sea. The water element appears to be coolest and darkest in tone than the other elements. This is because most water animals have dull colors like blue, green, grey and slight touches of red and orange. It also appears to be the most fantastic series as Arcimboldo gave more attention to size than the other series like the earth that used the same technique of animals to create.