Last Updated 23 Mar 2020

Mannerism Artist

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Mannerism appeared in response to the Renaissance style from Florence, Rome and Venice in the 1520’s. Unlike Renaissance artists to strove to make their art look as realistic as possible, mannerism artists broke away from this convention. Some of these key characteristics include abnormally elongated limbs, contorted bodies impossible poses and most importantly, artifice. Renaissance artists tried to disguise artifice where mannerism artists reveal imbalanced compositions, ambiguous space, departures from expected conventions and unique presentations of traditional themes (Gardner 612).

There are great examples in paintings, sculptures and architecture that utilize these characteristics and give us a better understanding of what mannerism truly is. There were many influential painters in the 1500’s that took advantage of the freeing style of mannerism. One artist who stands out is Jacopo Da Pontormo. His piece, Entombment of Christ, (Capponi Chaple, Santa Felicita, Florance Italy, 1494-1557) embodies almost all of the characteristics assigned to mannerism.

Christ’s decent from the cross-had been frequently portrayed by many artists before him. However, Pontormo took a different approach from his processors. Pontormo changed his picture plane from the traditional perpendicular plane by rotating image along a vertical axis. Because of this, the Virgin Mary falls away from the viewer as she releases her son’s hand (Kleiner 613). Another striking difference is how he positions the characters so there is an intentional void in the middle of the painting.

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How the bodies and limbs moves around the center accentuate the void. Also, the elongated limbs and bodies positioned in a contorted fashion depict the key characteristics of the style. For example, the figure holding Christ on his back has an elongated torso that does not seem to be anatomically possible. This painting gives the viewer an excellent example for how Pontormo and other mannerism artist’s have split ways with the natural, realistic, and balanced principles of the Renaissance artists.

The mannerism style can be seen across other mediums as well. Other artists took these new principles and incorporated them into sculpture. Giovanni da Bologna’s (born, Jean de Boulogne) Abduction of the Sabine Women, (Loggia dei Lanzi, Piazza della Signoria, Florence, Italy, 1579-1583) epitomizes the principles of figure composition for Mannerists. As seen by Pontormo, this piece is also created on a vertical axis. The bodies create a vertical, almost flame-like spiral movement. This sculpture was the first large-scale group since classical antiquity designed to be seen from multiple viewpoints... ” (Kleiner 619). Because of this, the piece changes immensely depending on where the viewer is standing. The figures also display extreme emotion that was not common before this period. For example, you can almost feel the woman figure’s pain and anguish by her face, and how she is trying to break away from the young male figure. Mannerism also translates into the medium of architecture.

This style of architecture also challenged the classical elements of balance, order and stability that were prominent in the Renaissance. Giulio Romano ended up being the leading architect in Mannerism. An example of his work would be the Palazzo del Te, Mantua, Italy, 1525-1535. The viewer can see his Mannerist style in the facades that face the interior courtyard. The deviation from the conventional architecture of the time is pronounced by revealing the artifice of the palace design. The keystones for example, either have fully settled or seem to be slipping from the arches-and, more eccentric still, Giulio even placed voussoirs in the pediments over the niches, where no arches exist” (Kleiner 620). The building is full of structural oddities and contradictions. For example, the architraves holding the columns up don’t look strong enough to support the building, giving the viewer the illusion that the building may come crashing down at any time.

In conclusion, the mannerism style broke away from the conventional Renaissance style of order, balance and realistic paintings. It focused more on the artifice, elegant style and showing emotion through the figures. Although Mannerism did not last long, I believe this style of art helped artists break away from the strict rules of its predecessors and let the artist be free to express more emotions and to retell stories in a different way. Sources: Kleiner, Fred S. , and Helen Gardner. Gardner's Art through the Ages: A Global History. Boston, MA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2009. Print.

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