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The Manner of Mannerism

Mannerism is an art style that was dominant in the 16th century that originated in Rome and encompassed painting, sculpture and architecture. The word “Mannerism” comes from the Italian “maniera” or "style.” In contrast to the High Renaissance style of compositional balance and tranquility, Mannerism employed the use of complex composition, overly stylized figures and postures, and dramatic themes. There is an air of action or restlessness. Figures in the Mannerist style are typically somewhat distorted, exhibiting either exaggerated musculature or elongation. Compositionally, Mannerist paintings are crowded with no definable focal point. Irrational perspective and incongruous colors also often characterize the style. Thematically, Mannerist art continued to center upon religious themes but also often included somewhat erotic allegories.

Curiously, Mannerism developed on the heels of the High Renaissance, a time during which realistic interpretation of the human form and correct perspective had been achieved. Mannerism is thought to have grown out of, and not in reaction to, the High Renaissance style and to be a reflection of the tension that marked this time period in history.

The art of Michelangelo and Raphael, premier painters of the Renaissance, are thought to have provided the impetus for the development of Mannerism which was first perhaps reflected around 1520 in the work of Raphael’s pupil, Giulio Romano. Notable examples of the Mannerist style in painting are Madonna with the Long Neck by Parmigiano and Susanna and the Elders by Allesandro Allori.

By about 1580, Mannerism began to give way to a more natural and realistic style, that of Baroque, although some fine examples of Mannerism remained in the work of Spanish artist El Greco, such as Baptism of Christ , until his death in 1590.

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Diana Blake is a professional artist and art history enthusiast. Her fascination with art history began when she encountered European art firsthand during several trips abroad as a young adult. As she began to compose a portfolio for her own art career, she called upon what she had seen in Europe and extended her knowledge to other styles of art through profuse reading and exhaustive research. As a result, Diana has written more than one hundred articles in which she delves into a variety of art history topics and she has compiled a list of links that she believes to be invaluable for art history enthusiasts. In addition, she also reviews books and movies on the topic of art history and has assembled an extensive list of online stores that sell books, movies and gift items related to art history.
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