+
3 Tutorials that teach Mannerism
Take your pick:
Mannerism

Mannerism

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will present an overview of the Mannerist movement. 

(more)
See More

Try Sophia’s Art History Course. For Free.

Our self-paced online courses are a great way to save time and money as you earn credits eligible for transfer to over 2,000 colleges and universities.*

Begin Free Trial
No credit card required

25 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

221 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 20 of Sophia’s online courses. More than 2,000 colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.

Tutorial

An introduction to Mannerism.

Video Transcription

Download PDF

Hello, I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell, and today's lesson is about Mannerism. As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as often as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives, or the things you're going to learn today, are listed below. By the end of the lesson today you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms, explain the stylistic characteristics of Mannerism, and identify examples of Mannerist works of art.

Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. First key term is Mannerism, a style during the 16th century Italian High Renaissance characterized by systems of complex perspectives, elongated forms, unnatural gestures and poses of figures with emotionally charged colors. Formal dissonance, a state of tension that is created when the experience of what is expected to be seen and what is actually seen are in discrepancy.

The big idea for today is that Mannerism was a style that developed in 16th century Italy that is characterized by elongated forms, complex perspectives, emotionally charged colors, and unnatural gestures and poses of figures. So we'll be looking at the years covering 1525 to 1588. And I've included the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in 1517 as a reference point. Traveling today to Italy once again, but also the country of Spain and the city of Toledo. Here's Italy and here's Spain.

So Mannerism is considered to be a response to the Renaissance style that dominated Italy during this time period. So to summarize, it's characterized by the following qualities. Once again, complex perspectives, elongated forms, unnatural gestures and poses of figures, and emotionally charged colors, as well as the conscious decision on the part of the artist to make the painting look, well, like a painting. Where the Renaissance artists, in their efforts to make paintings as realistic as possible, attempted to conceal the construction of the artwork, Mannerists embraced it, and in a sense created a characterization of the Renaissance style.

So our first artist, known as Pontormo, was a Mannerist painter that originated from the region of Florence. One of the most important paintings is that of The Descent, shown here. Descent from the Cross, also known as The Entombment of Christ, as it has remained unclear which scene is being depicted, given that Pontormo opted to not include any objects in his painting. One of the first things you notice is the use of emotionally charged colors. Pontormo chose a palette of mostly pastel colors with pink and blue dominating the image. Now the empty space in the middle is symbolic of grief, and is a departure from other Renaissance artists who tended to concentrate their images near the center of composition.

Also notice how the figures are all blond or reddish haired, and how Christ is depicted sans mustache. Atypical for most depictions of Christ during this time period. Now whether these attributes were intentional, projections of some of the artist's own physical traits, I can't say for sure, but the comparison at least is interesting.

Now the figures are all shown with varying degrees of concern on their faces, Mary being the most visibly upset, which is understandable. The elongation of forms and uncomfortable or impossible, in some instances, bodily contortions are present as well, and are examples of formal dissonance. Or what the viewer expects to see conflicts with what is actually shown. In this image here you can see Mary as well as what's thought to be a self portrait of the artist.

The Mannerist painter known as Parmigianino worked out of Parma, Italy, among other places. Like Raphael, who died 20 years prior, Parmigianino had a relatively short life, and also died at the age of 37, coincidentally. His best known work of art is the Madonna and Child with Angels, more familiarly known as the Madonna with the Long Neck, which is an apt nickname. The exaggerated form of the Virgin Mary emphasizes the delicacy of her feminine features, like her slender hands, almost swan like neck, and long legs covered in mounds of beautifully rendered clothing.

There's an unsettling sensation that is generated, though, upon closer inspection. Notice the figure in the background with the scroll. He's included to give some impression of depth to the image and a reference point for the receiving background, but his proportions aren't quite right. More so, he appears smaller than he should be. The incomplete capital and background enhance the sensation of formal dissonance. As per Renaissance artwork, we anticipate a fully rendered background, but we don't get one.

The Virgin Mary is also severely distorted, coming in at nearly nine heads tall, when the natural measure is usually between six and seven. She's literally gigantic. Finally, the baby Jesus would certainly set the record for the longest baby ever. He measures five heads, almost twice the measurement of a typical child at this age. Once again reinforces this feeling of formal dissonance. We anticipate an intimate scene between mother and child, but instead are treated to a somewhat unnerving scene between an unnatural looking mother and gigantic baby.

The artist known as Bronzino was a pupil of Pontormo. And this image on the right is one of his portraits, not of the artist himself. Now this painting was commissioned by Cosimo de Medici for the King of France. Its titled Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time, and is a somewhat incestuous image that is centered around the image of Venus being fondling by her child Cupid. In another example of formal dissonance, the childlike head and adult-like body of Cupid don't seem to match. In fact, the head of Cupid almost appears to be detached from his lower body.

Folly, the little ruddy looking boy who looks like he's about to drill Venus in the back of the head with rose petals, is beautifully and masterfully painted. And it's an example of just how refined the area of oil painting is becoming. Just look at how realistic his little curls look. Now Time appears to be pulling back the curtain, revealing the entire scene to the viewer. Here's a closeup of time. The personification of Fury can be seen in the shadows behind Cupid. And finally the masks, shown here, are symbolic of deceit. Now in terms of the overall meaning behind the painting, I really can't say, but it is a wonderful example of Bronzino's application of Mannerist principles.

Our last artist, known as El Greco, or "the Greek," was actually born in Crete, hence his name, but he spent considerable time in Italy before moving to Toledo, Spain for the remainder of his life. El Greco is known for his blending of Byzantine and Mannerist styles with some Spanish influence. And it's uniquely his known. And he's known for his strong emotionalism through his depictions of forms and use of color.

Now this image, called The Burial of Count Orgaz, is almost bursting with figures crowded into the scene in which the terrestrial and heavenly realms are depicted as almost existing on the same plane. The Saint Stephan and Augustine have descended from heaven the lower the count's body into his grave. And there's differentiation, however, in the way that the figures are conveyed. And it's through the use of form, the differentiation of form. The earthly realm is painted rather realistically, while the elongated figures in heaven are depicted amongst swirling forms and wispy looking clouds.

The burial scene is full of black clad figures in traditional for the time Spanish aristocratic dress. A few of whom look upwards in acknowledgement of the Heavenly realm, prepared to welcome the soul of the count, who is being lifted upwards by the angel in the center. The juxtaposition of the realistic with the Mannerist is a unique quality of El Greco's, and would serve as an influence and transition to the emotionally charged imagery and dynamism of the later Baroque period.

Let's take a look at our objectives now that we've reached the end the lesson to see how we did. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms, explain the stylistic characteristics of Mannerism, and identify examples of Mannerist works of art?

Once again, the big idea for today is that Mannerism was a style the developed in 16th century Italy that is characterized by elongated forms, complex perspectives, emotionally charged colors, and unnatural gestures and poses of figures.

And that's it. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Notes on "Mannerism"

Key Terms

Mannerism

A style during 16th century Italian High Renaissance characterized by systems of complex perspectives, elongated forms, unnatural gestures and poses of figures with emotional charged colors.

Formal Dissonance

A state of tension that is created when the experience of what is expected to be seen and what is actually seen are in discrepancy.


Citations

Image of Italy Map Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EU-Italy.svg; Bacchus & Ariadne; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Titian_Bacchus_and_Ariadne.jpg; Burial of the Count of Orgaz; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:El_Greco_-_The_Burial_of_the_Count_of_Orgaz.JPG; Cupid, Time, Folly, & Venus; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Angelo_Bronzino_001.jpg; Madonna of the Long Neck; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Parmigianino_-_Madonna_dal_collo_lungo_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg; Deposition from the Cross; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jacopo_Pontormo_004.jpg; Image of Pontormo Public Domain http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/jacopo-pontormo/self-portrait; Image of Parmigianino Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Parmigianino_Selfportrait.jpg; Image of Medici Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lorenzo_de_Medici2.jpg; Image of El Greco Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:El_greco.JPG

 

 

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Mannerism

    A style during 16th century Italian High Renaissance characterized by systems of complex perspectives, elongated forms, unnatural gestures and poses of figures with emotional charged colors.

  • Formal Dissonance

    A state of tension that is created when the experience of what is expected to be seen and what is actually seen are in discrepancy.