If you’ve seen a painting by Guiseppe Acrimboldo, you’ll remember it graphically.  I was privileged to do just this in the national gallery in Vienna.  Even with reproductions you know that you are looking at one of the most interesting, even gleefully eccentric, painters in art history.

While his works fascinated his coevals in the 16th-century, it is strange that he was forgotten for more than two centuries after that.  As painters began to shake up art history in the 19th-century, the interest in Acrimboldo revived.  Salvador Dali, the surrealist, took particular interest in the paintings and you can see the influence in what he did.

This artist must have had fun doing these “portraits” which he sometimes did according to themes, like the seasons.  The detail is intriguing.  Ingeniously, fruit, vegetables, plants and flowers cluster to make facial features, everything in rich colour and fine-grained realism.

I imagine court painters, such as he was, become bored with producing one solemn portrait after another.  There is wry humour running through his work, even a more than a touch of satire at what was expected of him.


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

December, 2018


Source and images

Wikipedia and Wikipedia gallery








Founded in 1089, the Melk Abbey or Stift had been a castle given to the Benedictine order by Leopold II.  The baroque character came in the early years of the 18th-century.   The Abbey, perched majestically on a high outcrop,  overlooks the Danube.  The onion spires on the twin towers are characteristic of many churches in Austria.

High up on a hill

In its history, we were told by the tour guide, there were serious threats to its continuation as an abbey in the Napoleonic wars and in World War Two.   It is known as one of the great monuments to baroque architecture.

An interior of magnificence

After the baroque splendour, the painting, the architecture, and Austrian baroque has a characteristic beauty,  I remember after many years the tour guide’s closing words to us.  He spoke with deep feeling, probably too, because this elderly man might well have been a child during the war:   “So much magnificent European patrimony was destroyed in the war.  I thank God that what I have shown you was preserved for us – the Melk Abbey.”

Melk Abbey and the Danube


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

January, 2018



Wikipedia:  Melk Abbey



Abbey  –

Abbey interior  –

Abbey and Danube  –




Will will travel

I am a part of all that I have met

Ek is deel van alles wat ek ontmoet het

Je fais partie de tout ce que j’ai rencontré

Είμαι μέρος όλων αυτών που έχω γνωρίσει

Soy parte de todo lo que he contrado

Ich bin ein Teil von allem, was ich getroffen habe

나는 내가 만난 모든 것의 일부이다.

Sono parte di tullo quello che ho incontrato

Ik ben onderdeel van alles wat ik heb ontmoet

Namibia from space


I am a part of all that I have met; 

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’ 

Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades 

For ever and forever when I move. 

How dull it is to pause, to make an end, 

To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use! 

From Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1833


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2017



The earth




Space Panorama NASA 1969






Schloss Amras, Innsbruck

I won’t forget Schloss Amras.  I can’t.  What you see there, won’t let go – a portrait of a man living with a spear through his right eye; portraits of the Hair People; an original portrait of Dracula.  And that is not all.  What kind of place is this?

Spear man

Vlad Tepes a.k.a. Dracula

This Castle, on the slopes of the mountain above Innsbruck, was established nearly 450 years ago by Archduke Ferdinand II (1529-1595).  The assembling of curious objects at that time has made the collection rate as the oldest museum of its kind in the world.  Austrians cherish the place, which has a history from the 10th-century, as of their most valuable heritage, a monument to the rebirth of European culture, the Renaissance.

The skull of a reindeer whose horns got stuck in the bark of a tree, the unique collection of armour … the Hall of Art and  Wonders yields one surprise after the other.  The portrait of Dracula had me a touch skeptical, but the portrait of the Hair People were a revelation.

Der Haarmensch von Munchen

The Hair People – a father and his children – were hairy from head to toe, including their faces, making me think of coarse fur.  Pedro Gonzales, the father, was born in 1550 on Tenerife.

Rather formally he posed for the painter in 1580, so becoming a talking-point in Europe.  In the family portrait the mother is present,  smooth and hairless.   The formality of the portraits is striking, perhaps to counter centuries of myths and legends about the figure of the Wild Man in European folklore and elsewhere.

The Wild Man

It was the spirit of the Renaissance that made for the documenting of the phenomenon instead of a superstitious reaction that might well have led to a cruel eradication of “a sign of evil”.  With this particular case and with the various museum spaces at Amras we experience the convergence of science, conservation, appreciation and wonder.  Today there is a medical term drawn from the hair people which originates from Amras.

What would Darwin have said?


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

July, 2017



« Der Haarmensch von Műnchen » – internet-article

Wikipedia :  Castle Ambras

Encyclopédie des Symboles – “L’Homme Sauvage”

[Notice the variant spelling of Amras / Ambras.]



Schloss Ambras – Wikipedia

Vlad Tepes / Dracula – Pinterest

Spear man  – Pinterest

Haarmensch – formal portrait – Pinterest

Haarmensch – detail  –  Pinterest

L’homme sauvage – Encyclopédie des Symboles






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