Italian Mannerism Essay, Research Paper
What are characteristics of Italian Mannerism in sixteenth-century painting? In
sculpture? In architecture?
By the mid 1520?s, Italian art reached what many then believed to be its zenith. Genius artists like Michelangelo, Rafael, and Titian, dominated, which left little to be improved upon in the High Renaissance. Masters like these set to conquer what pervious generations set out to do. Combining beauty, harmony, and balance, these masters, as many had thought, even surmounted the greatest accomplishments of Greek and Roman antiquities. Now a crisis had arisen in Renaissance art. It seemed that the next generation of artist could do little more then mimic those prior, for one cannot exceed perfection. Yet, there were those of this new generation who intended to do just that, if not in handling of human form, then in matters of inventions. What had been done before was to be carried to new levels by artists such as Parmigianino, Romano, and Bronzino. The most graceful forms and poses were taken to complexity and dynamism. The once limpid and intelligible themes were then driven to obscurity. Perfection, it seemed, was pushed to its limits to the stylistic movement called Italian Mannerism.
The word Mannerism is derived from the Italian word manirea. Italian Mannerism is a desire to express the human form, and the spirit within, mannered as both harmonious; exaggerated and contorted poses made graceful, distorted and elongated bodies that seem both beautiful yet eccentric. In painting, the unnatural color use fashioned as natural. This blending of contradictions is often accented by a complexity of subject. Each is often charged with hidden meaning and symbolism, the individual is not so much human, but more represents what is human, both light and dark. Italian Mannerism does not merely try to reproduce the physical world; instead attempts to capture an underlying spirit, a human ideal that is imposed by the mind onto the physical world.
In Parmigianino?s Madonna with the Long Neck (1534-40) exhibits all classical examples of Italian Mannerism in painting. The artist seems to revel in distortion and contradiction. The Madonna?s elongated proportions, most notably her swan like neck and drawn-out hands and fingers seem to convey a sense of grace and elegance. With the absence of a solid throne, she appears half way between sitting and floating. Her robes have an aesthetic quality almost independent of her body, and at the same time accentuate her female form with a sensuality that many found to be an objectionable depiction for the Mother of Christ. The strange and somewhat disturbing portrayal of this familiar subject seems both connected and yet, at the same time, alien to its holy theme. Parmigianino?s very deliberate deviation from the norms of the High Renaissance cannot be contrived as merely formal in nature; he is here pioneering a new means of rendering visible those dimensions beyond earthly reality.
Italian Mannerist sculptures demonstrate similar characteristics as figural painting. Sculptures tended to exhibit exaggerated body forms and poses, for instance Giovanni da Bologna? Venus Urania (1573). The graceful, eccentric form of her body is twisted and can be seen from any standpoint. Italian Mannerist sculptures were also inclined toward precious metals and diminutive size.
Italian Mannerist architects played with the Classical style after conquering it. Some architects rejected the Classical style, although some added a witty style to it. For example, Michelangelo?s addition to the Medici Chapel encompasses a staircase that is distinctly disproportionate. The staircase is somewhat unsettling, yet posses the Italian Mannerist style that is dreamlike and imaginary.
In the 17th century and later, critics used Italian Mannerism in context implying the art was mannered, or in other words, exaggerated, artificial, and even peculiar.