As the year matures, so does “Summer” after “Spring”. Where “Spring” portrays a young woman just in bloom, “Summer” instead is depicts a fertile young woman. By now, the buds of spring have given way to the heavy, ripe fruit and vegetables of summer. With full, deliberate curves both in the woman’s body as well as in the produce that helps to form her, “Summer” presents an idealized fertile figure as if the young woman of “Spring” has matured into a mother. The voluptuous curves of perfectly ripe fruits and vegetables make up her plump face, and this is echoed in her shapely figure. Each of the vegetables and fruit that form the woman are perfect: there are no spots, blemishes, or irregularities that would detract from the beauty and bounty of a full harvest.
While many of the items depicted were common and easy to study, Arcimboldo also adds delicacies like the ear of corn and the eggplant (note one), which help to show his breadth of knowledge as well as the importance of a patron who could afford such exotic vegetables. Her gown is made of woven wheat, and additional stalks sprout from her collar and sleeves as if the abundance of the season can barely be contained. Interestingly, it is on “Summer” that Arcimboldo chooses to sign his name for the series, carefully woven into her gown. Hidden in the dress’s collar is “Giuseppe Arcimboldi • F," where the F stands for “Fecit” meaning “he has done it," and in the gowns sleeve is the date of completion “1563." The date is significant, as it is how Arcimboldo differentiated subsequent copies of the series. His Four Seasons proved to be incredibly popular, with each work being replicated multiple times over the course of Arcimboldo’s life. The originals gifted to Maximilian II shown here represent the first and barest iterations of the series; later versions added borders, additional flora and fauna, and other details to the original compositions (note 2).
Note 1. Corn and eggplant are not native to Europe, as corn was brought back from the New World while eggplant came from Africa and Arabia. Arcimboldo, 1527-1593, Nature and Fantasty. Washington D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2010. Print.
Note 2. The version of the series with floral borders was completed in 1573 and currently resides in the Louvre in Paris