The Librarian (ca. 1566) is a well-known painting by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, a court artist for the Hapsburg emperors Ferdinand I, Maximilian II, and Rudolf II. Arcimboldo's "composite portrait" of a librarian cleverly assembled from a pile of books has been interpreted narrowly as a parody of librarianship and of intellectualism in general, due in part to Sven Alfons's identification of the librarian as the court historiographer, Wolfgang Lazius. This reevaluation of The Librarian attempts to broaden the conventional view held by art historians and librarians. Considered within the context of late Renaissance book culture (particularly, Sebastian Brant's Ship of Fools), Arcimboldo's humor takes on a new signification. The Librarian may have targeted not those who love learning but rather materialistic book collectors more interested in acquiring books than in reading them.


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pp. 115-127
Launched on MUSE
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