Friday, June 24, 2016

Giuseppe Arcimboldo Food Faces

How can the works of a sixteenth century Italian renaissance painter help teach children about nutrition and inspire healthy eating? Students engage in educational activities about nutrition at Choose My Plate sites and explore the fruit and vegetable paintings of sixteenth century Italian painter, Giuseppe Arcimboldo. The culmination results in a creation of their own works of sculpted and painted “healthy art” while learning how to identify various foods to construct a nutritious meal.

Italian Renaissance (unknowingly surrealist) artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo's [jew-SEP-pay arch-im-BOLD-OH] works prove to fascinate and inspire participants of all ages and disciplines. The obvious integration of nutrition inspired by Arcimboldo’s “food faces” led me to the wealth of resources for teachers and children at the U.S. Department of Agriculture site Always striving to incorporate the lesser experienced tactile kinesthetic art activities, I envisioned engagement in the art elements of form, texture, and color through sculpture using Crayola Model Magic and painting with tempera paints. The process and products confirmed Arcimboldo-inspired food faces were an avenue to awareness of healthy nutrition as well as a creative visual arts endeavor.

  • Classify the different food groups and select foods from healthy food groups
  • Sculpt and paint foods that represent a healthy, balanced diet using Model Magic and tempera paints
  • Create a surreal portrait using the sculpted foods, inspired by the work Giuseppe of Arcimboldo
  • Describe and/or write about their portrait; describe/write a healthy recipe, including ingredients and well-ordered instructions

       Giuseppe Arcimboldo
       Descriptive writing

       Images of portraits by Giuseppe Arcimboldo
       Images of fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods
       Paper/index cards (for sketches, planning, and descriptive writing)
       Model Magic
       Styrofoam plates
       Tempera Paint
       Paint brushes
       Optional: real fruits and vegetables
Teaching/Learning Procedures:
Step 1: Explore and engage in USDA MyPlate resources on an Interactive White Board (SMART Board) and discuss a nutritious, balanced diet. Explore the images, music, songs, activities and other various resources for learning about nutrition at .
Step 2: View the art and history of Giuseppe Arcimboldo. Discuss the artist’s biography and what he used to create his faces (portraits). Discuss concepts such as portraits, surrealism, sculpture and the elements of art (form, texture and color). Create similar faces, and instead of drawing eyes, lips and noses, (facial features) sculpt vegetables, fruits and other healthy foods to represent facial features.
Step 3:  Explore the art elements of form, texture and color as clay, Play-doh, or Model Magic is manipulated to demonstrate sculpting various healthy foods to use in Giuseppe-inspired portraits.  Sculpt foods to represent a balanced meal, representing knowledge of nutrition and creativity to compose a portrait and represent facial features.
Step 4: Arrange (composition) sculpted foods to create a unique surreal portrait. Experiment with the composition of the food, arranging forms on a plate in various ways to create a portrait. Once satisfied with the composition, glue the foods to the plate and paint with tempera.
Step 5: Write a description of the portrait on an index card, indicating what food was used for each facial feature and develop a healthy recipe including the ingredients and clear, well-ordered instructions.
Table 1. Nutrition and Health Books and Web Sites
The Vegetables We Eat by Gail Gibbons
Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert
Fruits and Vegetables / Frutas y vegetales (bilingual) by Gladys Rosa-Mendoza and illustrations by Linda Holt Ayriss
Healthy Foods from A to Z / Comida sana da la A a la Z by Stephanie Maze and photographs by Renee Comet

Web Sites
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Health and Nutrition Information
The USDA's food guidance system’s new MyPlate symbol and other materials to help Americans make healthy food choices and to be active every day.
Health and nutrition information for preschoolers. This section of the website is for parents and caregivers of children 2 through 5 years of age.
MyPlate Kids’ Place. Games, activity sheets, videos, songs, move more, recipes, and various other health and nutrition resources for students.
Nutrition Lesson Plan. Students will gain an understanding of what kinds of foods comprise a healthy meal through correctly combining foods into meals using pictures and graphics provided.
Nourish Interactive . Printable nutrition lesson plans and a variety of health and nutrition education resources for elementary school teachers, children’s computer labs, health care educators, and community health centers.
Table 2. Arcimboldo Visual Arts Books and Web Sites
Arcimboldo: Visual Jokes, Natural History, and Still-Life Painting by Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann
Hello, Fruit Face!: The Paintings of Giuseppe Arcimboldo by Claudia Strand
Sticker Art Shapes: Archimboldo by Louise Cognar

Web Sites
Giuseppe Arcimboldo: The Complete Works
Food Face Fun: Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s Summer. An extensive early childhood lesson developed by the Denver Art Museum where students explore Arcimboldo’s Summer by touching and examining the real fruits and vegetables that he included in his painting. Students arrange the food into a profile sculpture.
Arcimboldo's Feast for the Eyes
Smithsonian resources on renaissance artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo who painted witty, surreal portraits composed of fruits, vegetables, fish and trees
KinderArt Lesson on Fruit and Vegetable Portraits

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. Available at:
O'Donnell SI, Hoerr SL, Mendoza JA, Tsuei Goh E. Nutrient quality of fast food kids meals. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;88(5):1388-1395. PMID: 18996876.

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