Mannerism as a term is definitive of the painting and bronze sculpture styles of an era. Originating from the Italian word “maniera” known in English as simply “style”, the word mannerism is often referred to as the “stylish style” as it emphasizes artifice that is self conscious over that of a realistic interpretation. Vasari, a critic and artist of the 16th century who was a self proclaimed mannerist operated under the belief that excellent paintings required virtuoso criteria, technique, significant innovation and meticulous refinement which reflected the intellect of the artist (National Gallery of Art). Additional importance was placed upon his observation of nature that was repurposed such that it was indicative of an artist’s elaboration and mental conception. Such a bias was a natural response to the new status of artists in society. In the new age, sculptors and painters were now in the league of humanists, scholars, and poets which all fostered an appreciation for complexity, precocity, and elegance.
A feeling often impressed upon an observer of art designed in the mannerism artificiality includes that of anxiety given the consistently acidic, bizarre colors, illogical space compression, exaggerated figure anatomy in convoluted poses and extended proportions (National Gallery of Art). These characteristics are often seen in works such as ‘Agnolo Bronzino’, ‘Andrea del Sarto’, and ‘Rosso Fiorentino’. Despite hue intensity, Andrea’s communicative and vibrant colors were indicative of the true subject and forcefully expressed nature. Unlike many other portraits, Rosso is less objective and detailed in nature yet establishes the character’s persona with an elbow projecting strongly to the left. Crowding the panel, the image complements the expression of the man who appears slightly sad and haughty. As a result of such choices, these artistic works often appear unsettling and disturbing despite their attempt at achieving a sense of superficial naturalism (National Gallery of Art). This style arrived during an upheaval period which was marked by the sacking of Rome, biological plagues, and the Reformation. Upon its initial inception in 1520 around the central part of Italy, mannerism expanded to multiple regions and much of northern Europe. However, it held a primary foothold in Rome and Florence (National Gallery of Art).
From the period of the Early Christians up until the present time, basilica church plans have remained a popular framework for architects in Europe. However, the most prevalent layouts evolved from basilica into the Eastern European central plan and Western European Latin cross plan (Kleiner). Unlike the Latin cross design which introduces two transepts (also known as lateral extensions) to the original layout, the central plan creates a square through compressing the basilica. Central plan is a direct reference to the concept of rotational symmetry as it appears the same as multiple points of perspective. This design emerged from a fondness for domes as it naturally suggests the implementation of a central plan beneath it. The revival of domes and rounded arches reflected the Renaissance architects as they were largely inspired by Roman ruins (Kleiner). Consequently, they all feature what is known as planar classicism and flat walls to create a two dimensional appearance. The walls themselves however are canvases for classical veneer (Kleiner). Furthermore, the architects would modify the walls with divided neat sections such as stringcourses, columns, and pilasters. However, they were also influenced by the Latin cross churches which feature a tower constructed over the region in which the cross arms intersect. Numerous embellishments and variations were created utilizing the two aforementioned layouts. In the case of the Latin cross church, one example includes that of the chevet, noted for being an eastern extension point in which an ambulatory is formed via the aisles around the apse back where more apses are included (Kleiner). These additional apses are always odd in number as they guarantee that the eastern end of the building features a central apse and can be also utilized as chapels or shrines.
- Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner’s Art Through the Ages. 15th ed., Cengage Learning, 2016.
- National Gallery of Art. “Mannerism.” NGA, www.nga.gov/features/slideshows/mannerism.html