“Librarian”, Giuseppe Arcimboldo – description of the painting

Description of the picture:

Librarian – Giuseppe Arcimboldo. 1562. Oil on canvas. 97 x 71 cm

If a person unfamiliar with the history of art looks at this picture, he will confidently say that this is a modern work in the style of surrealism. And he will be mistaken, and at least for 4 centuries. This canvas was created in the 16th century by the Italian artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo, who was much ahead of his time. Now he is called the “grandfather of surrealism.”

The picture is a set of objects characteristic of the profession of a librarian, arranged in such a way that they develop into an expressive and memorable portrait. The basis of the image is numerous books of different sizes and thicknesses. They are arranged so that their pages and roots form the appearance of a person. An open book with puffing pages is hair; the ribbons with which the volume is tied form an ear; a small book located at an angle with a spine – the nose of a librarian.

His torso is formed by stacked books, and a hand lying on a plane is a few large books, stacked in such a way as to imitate the shoulder and forearm. Bookmarks in the book successfully imitate the fingers. The form is completed by a large drapery in the background, draped over the librarian’s “shoulder” like a cloak.

The color scheme of the picture is light, elegant. A buffy neutral background, a grayish-bluish “smoky” drapery fabric, golden-beige books, a large volume and several small elements of an apricot hue add airiness and lightness to the canvas."