Vol. 13, No. 2 (page 1)

...OR IS IT?

A Unit of Study

Have you ever been somewhere when you and a stranger have shared a laugh? An instant bond was formed. Humor is a universal human experience. When two people find humor in the same thing/event, a bond is created. There is an instant connection that both will remember fondly forever.

Humor in art can be found in the unexpected or fantastic. It can be found in the past and the present. Examples from the past will be taken from the work of Guisseppe Arcimboldo. The immediate reaction to Arcimboldo's composite heads is that of , fascination and attraction. The reputation of this so-called Mannerist painter was based on his use of fantasy and surprise. His paintings were called “bizarre inventions” and were a great success in the Hapsburg (also spelled Habsburg) court of first in Vienna and then in Prague during the mid-1500s.

The examples of contemporary works are taken from the works of Scott Moore, an artist from Laguna, California. His prints are inspired by childhood experiences. Even though his works may be considered "surreal", they have aspects of visual puns because of the titles attributed to them. In this lesson, we will use two of his works: Up on Her Soap Box and Tooth Acres.

Arcimboldo’s transformation of the human face does contain an aspect of humor, of the ridiculous. Yet, they can be interpreted on several levels of understanding. These multiple meanings reflect a belief that art should not be taken simply at face-value (pun intended!), but examined for less obvious ideas and insights.

This unit will take students through the process of examining two levels of interpretation: the visual pun and the historical allegory. The two composite portraits selected for this unit are: The Librarian (1566), thought to be Arcimboldo’s first of this type; and Vertumnus (1590), acclaimed as his finest, culminating work.

Note: The target audience for this unit is sixth grade. This grade level was selected since in Texas their focus of study in art and social studies is the world and its cultures.


Overview of Lessons:..2
Lesson 1: The Librarian, by Arcimboldo, Pun Intended ..p. 4
Lesson 2: The Allegory of Vertumnus ..p.7
Lesson 3: Creating 3D Paper Sculpture
..p. 10

ART-O-GRAM ..p. 12
Student Reproducible Page / Word Puns Activity: .. p. 13
Lesson Handouts: .. pp. 14 - 22

Arcimboldo Portrait Game


(continued on page 2)

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