Main>> Art History

MANNERISM

MANNERISM



Mannerism [It. maniera].

Name given to the stylistic phase in the art of Europe between the High Renaissance and the Baroque, covering the period from c. 1510-20 to 1600. It is also sometimes referred to as late Renaissance, and the move away from High Renaissance classicism is already evident in the late works of Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael, and in the art of Michelangelo from the middle of his creative career. Although 16th-century artists took the formal vocabulary of the High Renaissance as their point of departure, they used it in ways that were diametrically opposed to the harmonious ideal it originally served. There are thus good grounds for considering Mannerism as a valid and autonomous stylistic phase, a status first claimed for it by art historians of the early 20th century. The term is also applied to a style of painting and drawing practiced by artists working in Antwerp slightly earlier, from c. 1500 to c. 1530).

1. History of the term.
2. Historical context.
3. Formal language.
4. Iconography and theory.
5. Spread and development.

1. History of the term.
The multitude of opposing tendencies in 16th-century art makes it difficult to categorize by a single term, a difficulty increased by the importance Mannerism placed on conflict and diversity. Giorgio Vasari first applied the word 'maniera' to the visual arts in 1550. He used the words 'maniera greca' to describe the Byzantine style of medieval artists, which yielded to the naturalism of the early Renaissance, and he wrote of the 'maniera' of Michelangelo, which deeply influenced later 16th-century art. This gave rise to the modern concept of Mannerism as a description for the style of the 16th century. Although in 18th- and 19th-century art theory Mannerism was regarded as marking a decline from the High Renaissance, in the early 20th century critics recognized its affinities with contemporary artistic movements, and Mannerist art was highly esteemed. At the same time its importance in leading to the Baroque was appreciated, as were those aspects that opposed the classical stability of the High Renaissance.

2. Historical context.
Mannerist art can be understood only in the context of profound social, religious and scientific turmoil. The Reformation officially started when Martin Luther nailed up his theses in 1517; the Counter-Reformation opposition started from the time of the Council of Trent in 1545. The Protestant doctrine of justification by faith challenged fundamental Catholic dogmas, and the Church of Rome could no longer exert its spiritual authority effortlessly, even in areas where the Counter-Reformation prevailed. The Sack of Rome in 1527 was interpreted as a retribution for moral decline and the glorification of luxury and sensuality. North of the Alps the structure of society was destabilized by the Peasants' Wars of 1524-5 in Germany. The discovery of the New World in the late 15th century and the early 16th must have had an equally momentous impact on the Christian West's concept of itself. The Old World could no longer see itself as the center of the earth, but was revealed as a relatively small area within an immeasurable and largely still unexplored whole with incalculable potential. On top of this came Copernicus's recognition of the heliocentric planetary system (c. 1512). A completely new view of the world came into being. The varied forms of Mannerist art evolved against this background. The art of the 16th century as a whole reflects deep doubts over the classical principles, normative proportions and lucid space of the High Renaissance. Mannerism may be described as the most willful and perverse of stylistic periods.

3. Formal language.
(i) Movement.
(ii) Spiritual intensity.
(iii) Space.
(iv) The fusion of the arts.
(v) Anti-classicism and subjective expression.

Mannerism, §3: Formal language
(i) Movement.
For the first time in Western art the painting and sculpture of the 16th century made the optical suggestion of movement a central creative concern. In painting this mainly affected subjects that suggest the passage of time, such as the Assumption of the Virgin or scenes from the Life of Christ, such as the Deposition and the Entombment. Examples include the Lamentation by Pontormo (1525-8; Florence, S Felicità;), Tintoretto's Bacchus and Ariadne (c. 1575; Venice, Pal. Ducale) and, north of the Alps, Pieter Bruegel the elder's Parable of the Blind (1568; Naples, Capodimonte. In sculpture this interest in movement inspired the creation of single figures or groups of figures that can be viewed from all sides, rather than from a single point; just as the figure seems to be in perpetual movement, so the spectator is encouraged to keep moving around it. Giorgio Vasari coined the expression 'figura serpentinata' (serpentine line) to describe this concept. The style was developed by Benvenuto Cellini in his Perseus with the Head of Medusa (1545-54; Florence, Loggia dei Lanzi; see Cellini) and subsequently by Giambologna in such works as Mercury (1580; Florence, Bargello) and the Rape of a Sabine (1582; Florence, Loggia dei Lanzi).

(ii) Spiritual intensity.
Endeavours to depict the spiritual were equally characteristic of Mannerism, especially in the field of painting. Medieval artists set weightless figures against a space less gold ground to suggest the realm of the Divine; in the Renaissance an interest in naturalistic description and anatomy subordinated the depiction of the transcendental. In Renaissance art the 'miracle is a process like any other earthly event' (Frey). For example, in Raphael's Disputa the heavenly and earthly spheres are bound together by being represented with equal reality. Mannerism, however, developed new means of distinguishing between the earthly and the divine, and in Mannerist art 'the world beyond intrudes into the world below' (Frey). The High Renaissance had paved the way for this process: Raphael, for instance, suggested the miraculous in the Liberation of St Peter (1514; Rome, Vatican, Stanza di Eliodoro) through the representation of light.

A new painterly concept was the necessary basis for representing the spiritual. In 15th-century painting line dominated over colour. Line fixes an object on a flat surface, making it appear tangible and real. Leonardo da Vinci countered this with a new emphasis on colour, as in the Virgin and Child with St Anne (c. 1515; Paris, Louvre). In his art line gave way to the subtle modulation of tone, and this concept deeply influenced 16th-century painting, especially in Venice and Emilia. Forms become less tangible and clearly defined, and while line primarily appeals to the intellect, colour speaks first and foremost to the emotions. Thus the conditions were set for the viewer to be overwhelmed by the miracle made visible in the picture.

This new potential was most fully realized in pictures of apparitions and visions. Titian's Virgin and Child with SS Francis and Aloysius and the Donor Alvise Gozzi (1520; Ancona, Pin. Com.), in which the Virgin miraculously appears to saints and to the donor, Alvise Gozzi, was of fundamental importance to the development of this theme. Many of Parmigianino's paintings, such as the Vision of St Jerome (commissioned 1526; London, N.G.) and the Virgin and Child with SS Mary Magdalene, John the Baptist and the Prophet Zachariah (c. 1530; Florence, Uffizi), were influenced by this work by Titian. Even the events described in the New Testament as taking place in this world were transposed into the divine realm, as in Titian's late version of the Annunciation (before 1566; Venice, S Salvatore) and Tintoretto's Last Supper (1592-4; Venice, S Giorgio Maggiore). Both the interest in movement and the representation of saintly visions and ecstasies were features developed by Baroque artists.

iii) Space.
Closely linked with giving visible expression to the spiritual was the endeavor to represent the infinite. In both architecture and painting the Renaissance had created space that was clearly defined on all sides. The viewer was provided with a definite frame and a fixed viewpoint. In the 16th century this situation was reversed. This development took place in stages. Initially the construction of pictorial space began to dominate over the animation of the surface. Here again the roots of the change can be found in the High Renaissance. Raphael's School of Athens (completed 1512; Rome, Vatican, Stanza della Segnatura) and the Expulsion of Heliodorus (1512-14; Vatican, Stanza di Eliodoro), in compositions based on the same principles, demonstrate the development from the primacy of surface to the primacy of space. In the second stage the space represented in pictures is seemingly extended into infinity: as in Francesco Salviati's fresco Bathsheba Going to David (1552-4; Rome, Palazzo Sacchetti), Tintoretto's Rediscovery of the Body of St Mark (before 1566; Milan, Brera) or Giambologna's relief of the Rape of a Sabine (1582; Florence, Loggia dei Lanzi). In the final stage, the side boundaries, too, are made transparent or even removed, as for example in Tintoretto's painting of the Transportation of the Body of St Mark (1562; Venice, Accad.) or Parmigianino's Madonna of the Long Neck (1534-40; Florence, Uffizi). This last painting also epitomizes a further defiance of High Renaissance lucidity: the architectural features and figures are no longer rationally united. Data relating to proportion and perspective space are at variance with one another, as is also the case in Pontormo's earlier panels illustrating the Story of Joseph (1515-18; London, N.G.).

North of the Alps the impression of infinite space was conveyed by means different from those used in Italian painting, as northern artists were less skilled in the refinements of mathematical perspective. The world landscape (Weltlandschaft), seen from a bird's-eye viewpoint, was created in such works as Albrecht Altdorfer's Battle of Alexander (1529; Munich, Alte Pin.) and Joachim Patinir's Charon Crossing the Styx (c. 1510-20; Madrid, Prado).

Developments in architecture were closely bound up with those in painting. The ideal of the centralized plan was abandoned in favor of the elongated axis. The administrative building of the grand duchy of Tuscany, the Uffizi, started in 1560 and designed by Vasari, was laid out according to this principle. The concept of a long gallery building, which was to be a constant component of grand houses and castles until the 19th century, became a favorite element in secular architecture. For example, Rosso Fiorentino created the Galerie François I at Fontainebleau in 1533-40 (5 m wide and 58 m long). In the 1580s Duke Vespasiano Gonzaga had the Palazzo del Giardino built at his residence in Sabbioneta, probably to designs by Vincenzo Scamozzi, on a narrow, seemingly unending axis. The blurring of fixed side limits that can be observed in painting, however, also had parallels in architecture. Michelangelo in particular in his designs (1516) for the façade of S Lorenzo in Florence (not implemented), the New Sacristy (1519-33) at S Lorenzo and the vestibule of the Biblioteca Laurenziana (both from 1524) treated the wall in a way that defies the normative proportions and clarity of the High Renaissance. Not only is the wall more sculpturally modeled than ever before, but there is no clear surface to act as a point of reference for the projecting and receding architectural elements; where the wall and thus the spatial boundary lies is debatable. In addition, Michelangelo no longer made a precise distinction between the façade and the inner wall; in the vestibule of the Biblioteca Laurenziana and in the New Sacristy the observer is confronted with four inward-turning façades.

Another characteristic of Mannerist art with regard to treatment of space is the lifting of boundaries-or blurring of them-in a variety of ways. This applies especially to the boundary between the artistic space (in the work of art) and the real space. A distinction can be made between the passive and active removal of this aesthetic boundary: when it is lifted passively the artistic space appears to be a continuation of the real space, while when it is lifted actively elements or figures from the artistic space appear to step out into real space. Important preliminary stages of this process are again discernible c. 1500 (e.g. the altar wall of the Strozzi Chapel painted by Filippino Lippi at S Maria Novella, Florence). In 1516-17 Baldassare Peruzzi painted the Sala delle Prospettive in the Villa Farnesina in Rome, in which a painted architectural colonnade opens out over a view of Rome. In the Sala dei Cento Giorni (1546; Rome, Pal. Cancelleria) Vasari successfully achieved a disorientating play with the spatial boundaries, while with the Sala dei Cavalli (1525-35; Mantua, Palazzo del Te) Giulio Romano blurred the division between artistic and real space, and between architecture, painting and sculpture. With the frescoes (1561-2) in the Villa Barbaro at Maser, Paolo Veronese went farthest along this path. An important example of these trends north of the Alps is the painting in 1578-80 of the Narrentreppe and the Wartstube at Burg Trausnitz, outside Landshut, by Alessandro Scalzi.

(iv) The fusion of the arts.
In all the examples given so far, it is clear that conditions specific to the individual art forms were removed. The possibility of replacing one art form with another-for example, sculpture and architecture with painting, or architecture with sculpture-is most powerfully rooted in the work of Michelangelo (the nude figures that appear to be painted sculptures in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, 1508-12). This trend developed fully in the next generation. When Correggio decorated the Camera de S Paolo at the monastery of S Paolo in Parma (c. 1519) not only did he make it impossible to see where the ceiling ended, but he also used painting to suggest the presence of sculpture and architectural elements. Veronese opened the boundaries between architecture, sculpture and painting farther than anyone else in his decorations at the Villa Barbaro at Maser.

Boundaries were overstepped in other respects too-here verging on the bizarre: for example, when buildings were created in the form of figural sculptures (c. 1580) in the garden at the Villa Orsini in Bomarzo (sacro bosco), or when sculpture sprang directly out of nature, as in the allegorical figure of the Apennines by Giambologna in the park at Pratolino, above Florence.

(v) Anti-classicism and subjective expression.
16th-century art rejected the classical principles of the High Renaissance. However, this alone does not make it Mannerist, as this further requires, among others, a predilection for the depiction of the abnormal and an emphasis on the subjective. Indeed, since the reassessment of Mannerism at the beginning of the 20th century, these latter aspects of 16th-century art have been much over-emphasized. In this context, the distortion of the human figure, often with the object of making it more expressive (a trend that is therefore allied with Expressionism), is of primary importance. Thus Rosso Fiorentino had no doubt studied Michelangelo, but he gave to his heroic figures seemingly arbitrary proportions and forms, summarizing and generalizing detail, as in Moses Defending Jethro's Daughters (1523; Florence, Uffizi) and the Deposition (1521; Volterra, Pin. Com.). In Florentine painting in particular figures were often elongated, while the heads remained relatively small, as in Pontormo's portrait of Alessandro de' Medici (c. 1525; Lucca, Mus. & Pin.), his Visitation (c. 1530; Carmignano, S Michele) and his frescoes (1523-5) in the Certosa del Galluzzo, near Florence. In North and Central Italy the same phenomena occurred, as in Parmigianino's Madonna of the Long Neck or Tintoretto's Christ before Pilate (1566-7; Venice, Scu. Grande di S Rocco). The work of El Greco is especially influenced by this anti-classical approach to the figure. The Milanese painter Giuseppe Arcimboldi came close to the style of Surrealism when he assembled human heads exclusively from realistically reproduced plant details (e.g. Winter, 1563; Vienna, Ksthist. Mus.) or placed figures in dreamlike contexts.

In general terms between 1400 and 1600 three stages of development in the representation of the human figure in art can be identified. In the early Renaissance the ideal was to show man as he appears naturally. There followed, in the High Renaissance, a desire to create ideally beautiful figures and to overcome the blemishes of nature. The ideal of Mannerism was to go beyond the natural reality and to distort figures in the interests of subjective expression.

In architecture classical forms are used in a fanciful and complex way that defies the rules of Classical architecture. Typical examples of this are the Palazzo del Te in Mantua, built c. 1525-35 by Giulio Romano, the courtyard face of which is structured all'antica, but with the masonry irregularly divided and with every third triglyph on the frieze threatening to slip out of place; the courtyard façade of the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, which adopts the Classical orders-Doric, Ionic and Corinthian-but where the actual load-bearing members, the columns, are given virtually no visual impact; or Palladio's Villa Rotonda (started in 1553), Vicenza, which externally embodies the idea of the centrally planned building to perfection, while the central space within is so poorly lit that the visitor has the impression of being drawn outwards by the horizontal shafts of light coming from the four entrances. Thus the centripetal principle of the centrally planned building is reversed into its centrifugal opposite.

4. Iconography and theory.
Mannerism is also distinguished by its intellectually complex iconography. Agnolo Bronzino's painting of the Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time (c. 1544-5; London, N.G.) is as typical in this respect as Benvenuto Cellini's salt cellar (Vienna, Ksthist. Mus.; see Cellini, benvenuto, fig. 4) with its heavy burden of mythological references, both works made for Francis I. Cellini himself said that he was well aware that he did not approach his work like many ignorant artists who, although they could produce things that were quite pleasing, were incapable of imbuing them with any meaning. Pieter Bruegel the elder drew much of his iconography from proverbs and folklore, attaining a similar intellectual sophistication.

The art theory of the Mannerist period was concerned with aesthetic problems rather than with the empirical problems of perspective, proportion and anatomy that had absorbed 15th-century writers. Venetian and Florentine theorists debated the primacy of color and disegno; Paragone, a debate over whether painting or sculpture was the superior art form, raged; and in the late 16th century the question of the relationship between the creative idea (the 'concetto') and the model in nature was discussed by such theorists as Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo.

5. Spread and development.
In the 1520s Mannerism was established as a style in Rome by the late work of Raphael and that of his followers, Giulio Romano and Perino del Vaga, and in Florence by the work of Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino. After the Sack of Rome (1527), the style spread to other Italian centers (Giulio Romano worked in Mantua, Sanmicheli in Verona and Parmigianino in Parma) and Florentine art of the mid-16th century may be described as mature Mannerism, the principal exponents of which were Bronzino, Vasari, Salviati and Giambologna. The Fontainebleau school was influential in the spread of Mannerism throughout Europe. The Italians Rosso, Cellini and Primaticcio were associated with it, and Rosso and Primaticcio, in the Galerie François I (1533-40), created a rich and intricate decorative style. Jean Goujon and Germain Pilon developed the style and, in the reign of Henry II, by such French artists as Jacques Androuet Du Cerceau the elder, who were influenced by developments in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands many artists who had visited Italy, among them Frans Floris and Marten de Vos, created a Mannerist style, and pattern-books such as those of Cornelis Floris, combining the Italian grotesque with scrolling and strap work, had a decisive effect in the second half of the 16th century, especially on architectural decoration north of the Alps. A highly sophisticated Mannerism flourished at the Wittelsbach court of Albert V in Munich and the Habsburg court of Rudolf II in Prague.

In northern European art Mannerism continued well into the 17th century, but in Italy the Baroque style was established by c. 1600. The Mannerist interests in movement and expression were more prophetic of future developments than the static images of the High Renaissance. In many ways early Baroque art united these elements with High Renaissance clarity and naturalism.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
EWA [with full bibliog. and list of sources]
G. Vasari: Vite (1550, rev. 2/1568); ed. G. Milanesi (1878-85)
G. P. Lomazzo: Trattato dell'arte della pittura, scultura e architettura (Milan, 1584)
--: Idea del tempio della pittura (Milan, 1590)
J. Van Schlosser: Die Kunstliteratur (Vienna, 1924) [contains most sources]
H. Hofmann: Hochrenaissance, Manierismus, Frühbarock: Die Italienische Künst des 16. Jahrhunderts (Zurich and Leipzig, 1939)
R. Zürcher: Stilprobleme der Italienische Baukunst des Cinquecento (Basle, 1948)
De triomf van het Manierism (exh. cat. ed. M. van Luttervelt; Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum. 1955)
W. Friedländer; Mannerism and Anti-Mannerism in Italian Painting (New York, 1957)
E. Battisti: Rinascimento e barocco (Turin, 1960)
G. Briganti: La maniera italiana (Rome, 1961)
F. Württenberger: Der Manierismus (Vienna, 1962)
F. Baumgart: Renaissance und Künst des Manierismus (Cologne, 1963)
J. Pope-Hennessy: Italian High Renaissance and Baroque Sculpture, 3 vols (London, 1963)
L. van Puyvelde: Die Welt von Bosch und Breughel: Flämische Malerei im 16. Jahrhundert (Munich, 1963)
D. Frey: Manierismus als europäische Stilerscheinung: Studien zur Künst des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts (Stuttgart, 1964)
A. Hauser: Der Ursprung der modernen Künst und Literatur: Die Entwicklung des Manierismus seit der Krise der Renaissance (Munich, 1964); Eng. trans. as Mannerism, 2 vols. (London, 1965)
J. Shearman: Mannerism (Harmondsworth, 1967)
G. Kauffmann: Die Künst des 16. Jahrhunderts (Berlin, 1972)
H. Kozakiewiczowie and S. Kozakiewiczowie: The Renaissance in Poland (Warsaw, 1976)
M. Wundram: Renaissance und Manierismus (Stuttgart and Zurich, 1985)


HomeHome