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Mannerism

Mannerism is a period of European art which emerged from the later years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520. It lasted until about 1580 in Italy, when a more Baroque style began to replace it, but continued into the seventeenth century throughout much of Europe.[1] Stylistically, Mannerism encompasses a variety of approaches influenced by, and reacting to, the harmonious ideals and restrained naturalism associated with artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and early Michelangelo. Mannerism is notable for its intellectual sophistication as well as its artificial (as opposed to naturalistic) qualities.

The definition of Mannerism, and the phases within it, continue to be the subject of debate among art historians. For example, some scholars have applied the label to certain early modern forms of literature (especially poetry) and music of the sixteenth and seventeen centuries. The term is also used to refer to some Late Gothic painters working in northern Europe from about 1500 to 1530, especially the Antwerp Mannerists-a group unrelated to the Italian movement.The word mannerism derives from the Italian maniera, meaning “style” or “manner”. Like the English word “style,” maniera can either be used to indicate a specific type of style (a beautiful style, an abrasive style), or maniera can be used to indicate an absolute that needs no qualification (someone ‘has style’).[2] In the second edition of his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects (1568), Giorgio Vasari used maniera in three different contexts: to discuss an artist’s manner or method of working; to describe a personal or group style, such as the term maniera greca to refer to the Byzantine style or simply to the maniera of Michelangelo; and to affirm a positive judgment of artistic quality.[3] Vasari was also a Mannerist artist, and he described the period in which he worked as “la maniera moderna”, or the “modern style”.[4]

However for later writers, such as the seventeenth-century Gian Pietro Bellori, “la maniera” was a derogatory term for the decline of art after Raphael, especially in the 1530s and 1540s.[5] From the late nineteenth-century on, art historians have commonly used the term to describe art that follows Renaissance classicism and precedes the Baroque. Yet historians differ in opinion, as to whether Mannerism is a style, a movement, or a period, and while the term remains controversial it is commonly used to identify European art and culture of the sixteenth century.[6]

As a stylistic label, “Mannerism” is not easily pigeonholed. It was first popularized by German art historians in the early twentieth-century to categorize the seemingly uncategorizable art of the Italian sixteenth century-art that was no longer perceived to exhibit the harmonious and rational approaches associated with the High Renaissance.

Early Mannerism

Depending on the historical account, Mannerism developed between 1510 and 1520 in either Florence,[7] Rome, or both cities.[8] The early Mannerists in Florence-especially the students of Andrea del Sarto: Jacopo da Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino-are notable for elongated forms, precariously balanced poses, irrational settings, and theatrical lighting. Parmigianino, a student of Correggio, and Giulio Romano, Raphael’s head assistant were moving in similarly stylized aesthetic directions in Rome. These artists had matured under the influence of the High Renaissance, and their style has been characterized as a reaction or exaggerated extension of it. Therefore, this style is often identified as “anti-classical”.[9] The earliest experimental phase of Mannerism, known for its “anti-classical” forms, lasted until about 1540 or 1550.

In past analyses, it has been noted that mannerism arose in the early 1500s alongside a number of other social, scientific, religious and political movements such as the Copernican model, the Sack of Rome, and the Protestant Reformation’s increasing challenge to the power of the Catholic church.

High Maniera

The second period of Mannerism is commonly differentiated from the earlier, so-called “anti-classical” phase.

Subsequent mannerists stressed intellectual conceits and artistic virtuosity, features that have led later critics to accuse them of working in an unnatural and affected “manner” (maniera). Maniera artists held their elder contemporary Michelangelo as their prime example; theirs was an art imitating art, rather than an art imitating nature. Freedberg argues that the intellectualizing aspect of maniera art comes in the artist expecting his audience to notice and understand this visual reference, the familiar figure in an unfamiliar setting surrounded by “unseen, but felt, quotation marks.”

Maniera that lasted from about 1530 to 1580. Based largely at courts and in intellectual circles around Europe, Maniera art couples exaggerated elegance with exquisite attention to surface and detail: porcelain-skinned figures recline in an even, tempered light, regarding the viewer with a cool glance, if at all. The Maniera subject rarely displays an excess of emotion, and for this reason are often interpreted as ‘cold’ or ‘aloof,’ and is often called the “stylish” style or the Maniera.Mannerism was an art style that focused on the human form, depicted in intricate poses and in exaggerated, not always realistic settings. The term Mannerism was derived from the Italian word maniera, translated as “style.” It developed in Florence and Rome between 1520 and 1600, as a style that rejected the balance of the Renaissance period in favor of a more emotional and distorted point of view. This art style reflected the tension in Europe at the time of its popularity. The movement eventually gained favor in northern Italy and most of central and northern Europe.

Paintings contained artificial color and unrealistic spatial proportions. Figures were often elongated and exaggerated, positioned in imaginative and complex poses. Works of the movement are often unsettling and strange, probably a result of the time period’s upheaval from the Reformation, the plague, and the sack of Rome. In 1600, Mannerists were accused of disrupting the unity of Renaissance classicism. However, in retrospect, the Mannerist movement supplied the link between Renaissance perfection and the emotional Baroque art that later developed in the 17th century.

Giorgio Vasari’s opinions about the “art” of creating art come through in his praise of fellow artists in the great book that lay behind this frontispiece: he believed that excellence in painting demanded refinement, richness of invention (invenzione), expressed through virtuoso technique (maniera), and wit and study that appeared in the finished work, all criteria that emphasized the artist’s intellect and the patron’s sensibility. The artist was now no longer just a craftsman member of a local Guild of St Luke. Now he took his place at court with scholars, poets, and humanists, in a climate that fostered an appreciation for elegance and complexity.Mannerism was an art style that focused on the human form, depicted in intricate poses and in exaggerated, not always realistic settings. The term Mannerism was derived from the Italian word maniera, translated as “style.” It developed in Florence and Rome between 1520 and 1600, as a style that rejected the balance of the Renaissance period in favor of a more emotional and distorted point of view. This art style reflected the tension in Europe at the time of its popularity. The movement eventually gained favor in northern Italy and most of central and northern Europe.

Paintings contained artificial color and unrealistic spatial proportions. Figures were often elongated and exaggerated, positioned in imaginative and complex poses. Works of the movement are often unsettling and strange, probably a result of the time period’s upheaval from the Reformation, the plague, and the sack of Rome. In 1600, Mannerists were accused of disrupting the unity of Renaissance classicism. However, in retrospect, the Mannerist movement supplied the link between Renaissance perfection and the emotional Baroque art that later developed in the 17th century.

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Featured Artist Peter Gric