Copulating Universes

Copulating Universes is based on Arcimboldo’s paintings and Mughal composite animal miniatures in which all living beings are one.

Copulating Universes. 2020, mixed media, 101 x 101 cm.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo worked as a court portrait painter for Emperor Maximilian II. There were composite animal miniatures and miniature statues of the Mughals in the emperor’s cabinet of curiosities. It is very likely that they inspired Arcimboldo to paint his own composite allegories.

The earliest composite animal statues have been found in Luristan, present-day Iran, and were made between 1000 and 650 BC. In India, the earliest surviving composite animal images can also be found in the 15th-century Jain Kalpa Sutra manuscript. They are also abundant in Hindu sculpture and miniature art, as well as in Persian miniatures.

The composite animals of Persian and Hindustan art tell of the unity and common origin of all living things. They also tells that new species always evolves from other species, and all living things interact in an inseparable way with each other. Everything is the same matter, and matter cycles forever.

Western art history, in turn, has interpreted Arcimboldo’s allegories as follows: “God creates natural things, and artist artistic things. The human imagination – as in a dream and as God – creates new species and new things ”. This sounds very anthropocentric approach compared to the Eastern tradition.