Notes on the Series
The cyclical nature of the seasons presents an easy method of determining the order for that series, but the organization of Four Elements is not quite as simple. However, on the verso of “Spring” is an inscription which translates to “Spring is accompanied by Air, a head of birds" (note 1), and begets the idea of pairing each season with its appropriate element. So here, the paintings of Four Elements are ordered by their matching image in the Four Seasons series. Another fact to note is that, while the genders of the figures in Four Seasons are relatively obvious, those of the figures in Four Elements are not as easily discernable. For the sake of this exhibition, they have been identified by the complement to their counterpart in Four Seasons (note 2). The paired paintings are as follows:
Spring - Air
Summer - Fire
Autumn - Earth
Winter - Water
note 1. An image of the inscription can be found within the text of Kaufmann, Thomas D. "The Allegories and Their Meaning." The Arcimboldo Effect. New York: Abbeville, 1987. 103. Print.
note 2. This identification system is backed by Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann in his book Arcimboldo: Visual Jokes, Natural History, and Still-Life Painting