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Home >> Popular Painting Styles >> Mannerism


Mannerism primarily focused on the human body, it was an art form, which attempted to depict the human body in intricate poses and in exaggerated, not always realistic settings. The Italian word maniera, translated as “style”, is the root source of the term Mannerism.

History of Mannerism

Mannerism as an art form developed in Italy between 1520 and 1600. It was seen as a reaction against the Renaissance for it rejected the balance of the Renaissance period in favor of a more emotional and distorted point of view. Most of the paintings of this genre drew its inspiration from the state of unrest Europe was in during those times Mannerism as a movement eventually gained popularity in northern Italy and most of central and northern Europe. In 1600, Mannerists were accused of disrupting the unity of Renaissance classicism. However, in retrospect, the Mannerist movement supplied the link between Renaissance perfection and the emotional Baroque art that later developed in the 17th century.

Mannerism as a painting style

Artificial color and unrealistic spatial proportions characterized mannerism paintings. The focus was on the ornamentation and figures were almost always exaggeratedly elongated and presented in complex poses to make them visually pleasing. Some of the mannerism paintings actually manage to unsettle you and more often than not they come across ass bizarre. In fact Mannerist portraits are distinguished by chilly elegance, perfunctory realism, and meticulous attention to detail. This was probably a result of the time period's upheaval from the Reformation, the plague, and the sack of Rome.

Some Examples of Mannerism as an Art form

Jacopo da Pontormo's Joseph in Egypt –this Painting is a typical example of the Mannerist style. In no way was it true to the original Biblical story of Joseph-the buildings and the clothings depicted were hardly authentic. It was wrong, but it stood out as an accurate representation of society's feelings.

Agnolo Bronzino's icy portraits hardly managed to make art interactive, infact it seems like a concious atttempt was made to create unbridgable distance between the subject and the viewer.He chose to concentrate on rendering of the precise pattern and sheen of rich textiles.

Jacopo Tintoretto's Last Supper is a halllmark painting of the Mannerism style. It epitomized the philosophy behind Mannerism by taking Jesus and the table out of the middle of the room. An attempt was made to show everything that was happening. Such a thing was never attempted before in the history of Christian Painting. The rich overbearing colors managed to disorient the viewer. He painted a scene of confusion that somehow separated the angels from the real world. He had removed the world from God's reach.

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