ADVERTISING
 
Monday, February 19   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 
 

POLL
Is the sexual exploitation of women an issue in your city?




SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



René Breuel
 

A joke in your face

The Four Seasons are portraits carefully crafted by each season’s elements, and questions our notions of the human face and the sentiments it evokes.

CULTURE MAKING AUTHOR René Breuel 22 OCTOBER 2017 12:00 h GMT+1
Arcimboldo Four seasons autumn

What are faces composed of? Skin and muscles? Sentiments? The long evolving cycle of events mirrored on our eyes and smile? I thought about these questions when Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s The Four Seasons caught my eye when I last visited the Louvre.



The Four Seasons are portraits carefully crafted by each season’s elements, and questions our notions of the human face and the sentiments it evokes.



It is a dark and fascinating mirror, to look’s at Arcimboldo’s portraits. There is first a bewildering effect, as our eyes move between the individual parts and the whole of each portrait, and remain fascinated with the possibility that elements like a tree trunk and lilies, never in our mind associated with human material, can form not only a face but an expressive one.



 



Arcimboldo Four seasons spring.

Spring, for example, exudes not only a flowery exuberance but also a certain naïveté, the impression of inexperienced youthfulness born of an insecure smile, blushed cheeks and the eye of someone who still stares gaily at the world and thinks in generalities.



 



Arcimboldo Four seasons winter.

Winter, on the other hand, projects fierceness and determination, like a centuries-old trunk accustomed to hardship and decay.



Our bewilderment becomes then curiosity: what is Arcimboldo up to here? It is not postmodern relativism, since Arcimboldo lived in the sixteenth century and composed The Four Seasons in 1573. Nor is it the random fancy of a disproportionate imagination, for the portraits reflect a century’s rising interest in botany and horticulture and Arcimboldo’s own attentive, lucid eye (he includes at least eighty different species of plants and flowers in the Spring portrait alone).



If our hearts proceed then to repulsion, we may be tempted to conclude that it is all a bad joke – no, my lips do not resemble a tree fungus like in Winter –  but I think the truth is both close and far from this.



The Four Seasons is a good joke, in other words. It is rather funny: a piece that reflects both the mannerist interest in nature, humanity and their correlation, and Renaissance’s fascination with enigmas, puzzles and the bizarre. It seems a bad joke because we are the object of the amusement, our very flamboyant faces.



 



Arcimboldo Four seasons summer .

The Four Seasons reconstructs the element of the human body we call the window into the soul, and thus undermines our understanding of humanity and of ourselves. There is a mixture of fascination and repulsion because, beneath the veneer of profile portraits, we wonder if these portraits are instead mirrors, magical mirrors which distort our faces but echo our soul.



We fear they are scary reflections which take us away from our faces and closer to the current season of our souls: an imaginative translation of the heart’s mood, be it the contentment of a warm summer breeze, the fertile excitement of spring prospects, or the pain of decadence mirrored in autumn’s darkening leafs.



But the joke is good only if we take it seriously and then laugh at it. If we take the warmth we feel, like that of vegetables just brought from under the sun, and merry and dance in it. Or if we take the solemnity with which we nurse our sorrows and fear decay and throw a juicy pumpkin on our head.



Jokes heal when they bring unexpected laughter, and laughter which giggles at ourselves humanizes us. We were the object of a prank, of a prank as good as a cucumber, and we may as well let daisies grow on our heads.


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - A joke in your face
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe

The economist summarises the manifesto “Confederal Europe: Strong Nations, Strong Union” and explains why personal relationships should be at the centre of our economy, education and democracy. 

 
Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation

Pastor Gary Wilkerson talks about what all evangelical Christians can learn from the Protestant Reformation and underlines the need for more churches with both a sound doctrine and obedience to the Holy Spirit.

 
Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe

Is the arrival of thousands of Muslims to Europe a threat to Christianity? What is the growth of evangelical churches in Eastern and Southern Europe? An interview with theologian and Lausanne Movement representative Lindsay Brown.

 
Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues

The World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General participated in the Italian Evangelical Alliance assembly (Rome, 8-9 April). In this interview with Evangelical Focus, Bp Tendero talks about the need to listen to local churches and to face challenges like the refugee crisis and climate change. 

 
Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum

Pritchard explains the vision of ELF, comments on the 2015 event in Poland and reflects on what it means to have an "evangelical identity".

 
Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission

“We want to see the youth not just being equipped, but also being multipliers”, Evi Rodemann director of Mission-Net. The European Congress took place in Germany from December 28 to January 2.

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
Coexistence in the church - a model for society Coexistence in the church - a model for society

“Gospel, identity and coexistence” were the themes of the General Assembly of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance. Two days in Palma de Mallorca to reflect about the role of evangelical churches in society.

 
'Ungi kulimi changana' 'Ungi kulimi changana'

Educator and journalist Jordi Torrents shares images of the Sekeleka social centre in Mozambique. About 50 children live there, many with some kind of disability. All photos were taken with permission.

 
The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve

For the first time, the President of Portugal attended a worship service in an evangelical church. It was in Sintra, on Christmas Eve.

 
Lausanne younger leaders gathering in Budapest Lausanne younger leaders gathering in Budapest

About 70 people from European countries met at the Younger Leaders Gen gathering in Hungary (19-22 October) to discuss the challenges of the church in the continent and build partnerships. Photos: Evi Rodemann and Jari Sippola.

 
I am not on sale I am not on sale

Young Christians gathered at Madrid’s central square Sol to denounce human trafficking. A flashmob highlighted the work of three evangelical NGOs which support women who escape sexual slavery in Spain.

 
Stamps to commemorate the Reformation Stamps to commemorate the Reformation

Poland, Lithuania, Namibia and Brazil are some of the countries that have issued special stamps on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses.

 
VIDEO Video
 
A marriage story A marriage story

The  great love story for everyone.

 
Be safe on social media Be safe on social media

A video about the way traffickers target teenage girls online, produced by anti-slavery gorup Abolishion.

 
In Mission In Mission

A 360º lyric video about how all followers of Jesus Christ are called to serve God. Duo in Spanish (Alex Sampedro) and Portuguese (Marcos Martins).

 
Heart Heart

A short animation film by Swiss cartoonist Alain Auderset tells the message of the Bible in four minutes.

 
Creation Care and the Gospel, in France Creation Care and the Gospel, in France

The conference drew about 90 delegates from across Europe. Scientists, theologians, activists reflected together on the theme “God’s Word and God’s World”.

 
Philip Yancey interview Philip Yancey interview

An 8-minute interview with Philip Yancey on the role of Christians in a secularised society. Recorded in Madrid, September 2016.

 
An interview with Prof. John Lennox An interview with Prof. John Lennox

New atheism, the definition of "faith", Christianity in Europe, the role of the Bible in mission, and the need to listen more. An exclusive interview recorded at "Forum Apologética" (Tarragona, Spain) in May 2016.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.