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Giuseppe Arcimboldo | Allegories of the Elements, 1576

Arcimboldo - The four Elements - Air
As he did in "The four seasons", in the series of "The four elements" Arcimboldo assigned to any element a face formed by the most characteristic of any of them. Nevertheless, the series possesses some elements that make it quite different, and even more interesting, than the previous one.
First, and contrary to the previous series, every face is formed by only one kind of element. The face of "The Earth" is formed exclusively by land animals, "The Air" is made of birds, and "The Water" by fish and marine animals.
Arcimboldo The four Elements - Fire
Arcimboldo The four Elements - Fire (detail)
Arcimboldo The four Elements - Earth
A special case is "The Fire" (Historical Museum, Vienna) represented by several blazing elements, from the embers that form the hair to the two cannons in his chest. Nevertheless, and despite this limitation, the paintings are more visually rich than the works from the previous series.
In addition, we must point that this series has an evident connection with "The four seasons". In fact, both series are organised by a hypothetical "axis of symmetry", confronting the air with the spring, the summer with the fire, the autumn with the earth, and the winter with the water.
Arcimboldo The four Elements - Earth (detail)
Nella serie dei Quattro Elementi, l'acqua è costituita da pesci, crostacei, conchiglie e altre creature marine, raffigurati realisticamente ma senza rispettarne le proporzioni; l'aria da un incredibile coacervo di uccelli; la terra da un aggregato di animali; per il fuoco, ci sono fiamme e armi. 
Arcimboldo The four Elements - Water
Arcimboldo The four Elements - Water (detail)