Sunday, May 4, 2014

5 Paintings that Illustrate Important Motifs and Historical Underpinnings of Mannerism

1. Deposition from the Cross, By: Pontermo
Compared to the renaissance, the Church played an increased role in monitoring and censoring artists, but artists were permitted to maintain their own artistic individuality. The Church sought to emphasize on the “drama” of scenes depicted in the Bible and sought to elicit emotion (especially shock and awe) from viewers. Artists often relied on “theatrical” poses and compositions. For example, there was often a disconnect between specific characters and other parts of the scene, in a similar fashion to an aside. This represents a significant shift from renaissance art, where the clear and deliberate depiction of a story was paramount.
For more about the church, mannerism and the transition from the Renaissance watch this video:

2. Venus and Folly, By: Bronzino
Mannerist paintings are usually directed toward connoisseurs rather than the general public, featuring illogical sophistication, coupled with a plethora of references to classicism, mythology, and/or Biblical characters. This deliberate irrationality would confuse the general public, much as it confounds viewers today.

3. Madonna of the Long Neck (aka- Madonna and Child with Angels and St. Jerome), By: Parmigianino
Mannerism tends to be a more realistic style, but one that elongates the scale and shape of the human form. Here we see the neck and fingers of Mary and the body of Christ appear elegantly, but unnaturally long. 

4. Portrait of Cosimo I de'Medici, By: Bronzino
The Medicci family returned to Florence around the time a Medicci pope was elected. The Medicci Family used art, especially art in the Manneristic style to add credibility to their court by showing-off their taste, sophistication, and sense of fashion.

"Around 1543, by which date Cosimo had consolidated his authority in Florence, the need arose for the creation of his official image. In response, Bronzino executed a first portrait of the Duke in armour which would function as a tool of political propaganda both within his own territories and abroad, and from which numerous later versions were produced." (For more about Bronzino and the Medicci, go to:

5. Portrait of a Young Man, By: Bronzino

Mannerist portraits often featured masks. This is likely a reference to the restrictive court etiquette of the time, which encouraged hiding one's emotions and intentions.

For more about masks in Mannerism, and more specifically this painting, watch this video:

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