The Portrait of Eccentricity

Arcimboldo and the Mannerist Grotesque

By (author) Giancarlo Maiorino

Paperback - £28.95

Publication date:

15 April 1991

Length of book:

184 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271023205

In this companion to his The Cornucopian Mind and the Baroque Unity of the Arts, Maiorino examines the links between Renaissance and the modern versions of the Groteseque.

In this interdisciplinary study, the term "eccentricity" refers to styles of playful extravagance. Maiorino focuses on the rhetorical figures of excess employed by a critic-historian (Giorgio Vasari), on the willful artificiality of a painter (Giuseppe Arcimboldo), and on the programmatic and interpretive commentary of a theorist (Gregorio Comanini).

Maiorino draws subtle and persuasive connections between the images he discusses and the grotesque "face" of sixteenth-century poetics and rhetoric. He sets the mannerist and the grotesque against the philosophical seriousness of Renaissance humanism, interpreting them as a celebration of the ludic and fantastic possibilities of art itself. Aiming at pleasure rather than instruction, this art plays on the boundaries of the natural and the artificial, the credible and the impossible, taking delight in parody, excess, disjunction, and exaggeration.

“In many ways, like its subject, marvelously idiosyncratic and playful, this book will make an important contribution to our understanding of the rhetoric of mannerism.”

—Ernest B. Gilman, New York University