The Italian artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo became known for his witty and eye-fooling “portrait heads” in the 1500s. His portraits and allegorical figures composed of objects like fruit, vegetables, seashells, and food gained him favor as a court painter and prefigured the much later art historical movement of Surrealism. (You can read a short Smithsonian article about him here.)
This painting was probably made by another artist imitating Arcimboldo’s signature style. This allegorical female figure has a bosom of jasmine blossoms, fingers like ginger roots, and a gown trimmed with roses and tulips. The beads of her necklace may be tiny pomanders (small pierced spheres holding perfumed materials) and she carries a hanging brazier with incense burning on hot coals.
An imaginative treat for the eyes…and nose.
Follower of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, The Sense of Smell. Oil on canvas. Southampton City Art Gallery, Southampton, England.