Artist: Giuseppe Arcimboldo
The Four Elements is a series of paintings by Italian artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo in 1566 during the Renaissance. They were commissioned by Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor. The portraits display figures in profile formed by different animals or objects. Earth is represented by land animals, Air by birds, Water by marine creatures and Fire by burning wood and cannons. This series attempts to express harmony out of chaos with wild animals forming distinct faces. It also praises Maximilian, suggesting that he is a ruler who controls even the four primal elements. Air displays a cornucopia of small birds that combine to create a slender male face. The majority of the birds are only partially visible which allow the artist to create the face and hair. The body is formed by a peacock; the goatee is a tail of a pheasant, and a duck forms the eyelids. The eagle and peacock are references to the Habsburg dynasty. Giuseppe included this reference to please his patrons and form a permanent bond between the painting and the Habsburgs.