Art Movements in History - Mannerism Art

"Perseus with the Head of Medusa", a famous Mannerist statue in Florence.

Mannerism art has its roots in 1500s Italy. Mannerism is a period that separated the Renaissance and the Baroque movements. Mannerism highlighted certain features in art to the point of making subjects and settings appear irregular and unnatural.

Mannerists painting have two detectable strains:

  • Early mannerism, which primarily depicts an anti-classical style of art. 
  • High mannerism, which was a complicated, inward-looking and intellectual style that was designed to attract sophisticated patrons. 

5. Overview of the Style

During the Mannerism art movement, artists filled Europe with amazing works of classical art. A distinct feature of the art of this period is the elongated neck and torso and fluid arms and legs in portraits of figurative paintings. During this time, artists were not interested in a real-life kind of art and instead took pleasure in creating and expressing emotions in portraits. This distinguished artists of Mannerism from the artists that succeeded them. Mannerists also used unusual colors like green and yellow in their paintings. Another important part of Mannerism was symbolism. The painters used visual metaphors and deep meanings to appeal to a wealthier audience instead of making art for everyone.

4. History and Development

Mannerism originated from Italy, where it lasted from around 1520 until 1600.The artistic works were termed as mannered because they emphasized complexity over naturalism. However, it took root in the times of Michelangelo and Raphael. The first paintings of this period reflected the superiority of man, where they idolized man as the measure of all things. Nonetheless, this was short-lived when a reformation movement led by Martin Luther against the Catholic Church led to war. This disruption ushered in a period of Mannerism where a man was no longer the center of the universe. Later, uncertainty in the movement became vivid with the new scientific inventions and discoveries like the existence of planets, the stars, and the moon. The artists lost their faith in the ordered harmony, and their art reflected the world undergoing radical changes. They felt that they could not paint pictures like their preceding masters, the likes of Michelangelo who used to paint natural and realistic paintings.They, therefore, turned to a new form of art that distorted the representation of a man with Mannerism characteristics.

3. Notable Artists and their Works

One of the artists who rose to the forefront of the mannerism art movement included Doménikos Theotokópoulos (El Greco), commonly known for painting such outstanding works of art as "Madonna and Child with St. Martina and St. Ages". El Greco, together with Tintoretto, were dedicated to showing intellectual content in their art rather than the new artistic media. Correggio is known for his sentimental narrative paintings. He was the first artist to portray light radiating from the child Christ. Parmigianino is another well-known artist, made famous by his "Madonna with the Long Neck" portrait. His paintings depict characteristics of slender, elongated limbs and neck, twisted and turning bodies all contradicting the traditional laws of proportion.

2. Decline and Subsequent Successive Movements

The decline of the Mannerism art movement started in the 1590s and rapidly escalated from then onward. The new generation of Italian artists led by Caravaggio reinstated the value of naturalism in art. Outside of Italy, it survived into the 17th Century in aristocratic court art. The baroque art movement immediately succeeded the mannerism art movement in which they mixed illusion and reality. Their paintings portrayed a mystic and supernatural world in an attempt of making faith more attractive.

1. Legacy

The Mannerism art movement left behind a legacy of technical brilliance, complexity, the influence of Michelangelo, and fashion in difficult times. These exemplary portraits are preserved in some of the popular museums in the world. Mannerism served as a transitional art form for many Baroque artists. They shifted their taste from the elaborate and sometimes manipulated painting. The religious negations of the counter-Reformation demanded a clear, forceful viewer-intelligible public art. The church termed their veiled references and complicated themes as inappropriate, and hence the painters resorted to an art that was capable of inspiring the faithful to Christian excellence and contrition, while at the same time seeking to protect the artistic progress of the period.


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