Arcimboldo revisited

The sixteenth-century Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo is best known for his striking paintings of human figures made up of fruits and vegetables. And as part of this year’s Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, (theme:vegetables), to my surprise I found myself trying to make similar pictures – but with real vegetables! This after-dinner experiment was the brilliant idea of the cultural historian Carolin Young and the artist Charles Foster-Hall, who had brought along basketsful of produce, wooden boards and frames, and hundreds of cocktail sticks for holding the fruits and vegetables in place.

Here is the result of a collective attempt by my Turkish friend Aylin, another emerging vegetable artist called Kathryn and me to make an edible portrait of the food historian Sami Zubaida (the photo was taken the following morning):

And below is a photo of the team of artists, with our model. I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a striking likeness. One other symposiast said he thought it was ‘like a Lucian Freud in its merciless realism’.

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