Of Packages and Men

The master of making people portraits from fruits, vegetables, animals and even books, was the Milanese Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593). (Portrait with Vegetables – The Greengrocer, above.) He inspired one of the most common conceits in French advertisements during the twenties and thirties, the transformation (e.g. today’s Transformers) of objects of all kinds including fruits, vegetables, animals and even espresso pots.

This form of trade character is still with us – characters today are made from all sorts of everyday things, like this famous drink pitcher. Arcimboldo’s influence has also lasted in post-surrealist illustration circles :

His painting, Water, was used as the cover of the album Masque by the rock band Kansas. A detail from Flora was used on the cover of the 2009 album Bonfires on the Heath by The Clientele.  The ‘soup genie’ character Boldo in the 2008 animated film The Tale of Despereaux, is composed of vegetables.”

4 thoughts on “Of Packages and Men

  1. Kevin Glasgow

    You can see this “common conceit” come to life in the animated movie “The Tale of Desperaux.” A collection of vegetables and other soup ingredients dons the armor of pots and pans in a daring rescue scene. The character does not exist in the book, but is added to great comic effect in the screen version.

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