Giuseppe Arcimboldo's “Vertumnus” was created in Milan in 1590. It is a portrait of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II re-imagined as Vertumnus, the Roman god of metamorphoses in nature and life.
The portrait of Rudolf II is composed of fruits, vegetables and flowers that symbolize the artist's vision of the perfect balance and harmony with nature that represented the reign of the Emperor.
Arcimboldo's unique portraits utilizing the fruits of nature were an expression of the Renaissance mind's fascination with puzzles, riddles, and the bizarre. His paintings of human heads composed of objects were greatly admired by his contemporaries.
The portrait includes pumpkins, pears, apples, cherries, grapes, wheat, onions, artichokes, beans, peas, tripe, cabbage, chestnuts, figs, blackberries, plums, pomegranates, squash, and olives.
One modern critic has theorized that Arcimboldo suffered from mental illness, but others insist that he must have been resourceful to win and retain favor in such rarefied circles. Others instead have suggested that he was a misunderstood man of the people; instead of fawning over the Habsburgs, he mocked them in plain sight.
However this seems unlikely; scholars now believe that Arcimboldo forged his ties to a powerful Italian family in an attempt to pass himself off as nobility.