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Early mannerism

Nov - 13 - 2012
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Depending on the historical account, Mannerism developed between 1510 and 1520 in either Florence, Rome, or both cities. The early Mannerists in Florence—especially the students of Andrea del Sarto: Jacopo da Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino—are notable for elongated forms, precariously balanced poses, a collapsed perspective, irrational settings, and theatrical lighting. Parmigianino (a student of Correggio) and Giulio Romano (Raphael’s head assistant) were moving in similarly stylized aesthetic directions in Rome. These artists had matured under the influence of the High Renaissance, and their style has been characterized as a reaction or exaggerated extension of it. Instead of studying nature directly, younger artists began studying Hellenistic sculptures and paintings of masters past. Therefore, this style is often identified as “anti-classical”. yet at the time it was considered a natural progression from the High Renaissance. The earliest experimental phase of Mannerism, known for its “anti-classical” forms, lasted until about 1540 or 1550. Marcia B. Hall, professor of art history at Temple University, notes in her book ‘After Raphael’ Raphael’s premature death marked the beginning of Mannerism in Rome.
Michelangelo was one of the great creative exponents of Mannerism. His Sistine Chapel ceiling provided examples for other artists to follow, in particular the figures of ignudi and of the Libyan Sibyl. Michelangelo himself could have been influenced by the “Belvedere Torso,” which also influenced other painters.
Raphael’s “Lo Spasimo di Sicilia” depicts an event in Christian history when Christ falls while carrying the cross, sees his mother in distress and is helped up by Simon of Cyrene. The composition is linked by the diagonals of the soldiers’ spears and the wooden cross. However, Christ cannot be singled out immediately among the gathering figures in the foreground, whereas Simon stands out quite prominently. The spectator’s eyes look down the composition to the drama and charge of the narrative.
The competitive spirit that was spurred on by patrons who encouraged the artists to show off their virtuoso painting. When in Florence Leonardo and Michelangelo were each given a commission by Gonfaloniere Piero Soderini to decorate a wall in the “Hall of Five Hundred”. These two artists were set to paint side by side and compete against each other fueling the incentive of being as innovative as possible. Later on in Rome Raphael was commissioned to paint “The Transfiguration” by Cardinal Gioulio di Medici who had been appointed as arch bishop of Narbonne in the south of France. At this time Raphael was also busy painting the Stanze, various altarpieces, painting versions of Madonna and child and being the principal architect in Rome after the death of Bramante, which gave him little time to do “The Transfiguration”. Therefore the cardinal commissioned Sebastiano del Piombo who was great Venetian colourist and a friend of Michelangelo to paint “The Raising of Lazarus”. This spurred Raphael on to complete the commission.
This period has been described as both a natural extension of the art of Andrea del Sarto, Michelangelo, and Raphael, as well as a decline of those same artists’ classicizing achievements. In past analyses, it has been noted that mannerism arose in the early 16th century alongside a number of other social, scientific, religious and political movements such as the Copernican model, the Sack of Rome, and the Protestant Reformation’s increasing challenge to the power of the Catholic Church. Because of this, the style’s elongated forms and distorted forms were once interpreted as a reaction to the idealized compositions prevalent in High Renaissance art. This explanation for the radical stylistic shift c. 1520 has fallen out of scholarly favor, though the early Mannerists are still set in stark contrast to High Renaissance conventions; the immediacy and balance achieved by Raphael’s School of Athens, no longer seemed interesting to young artists. Indeed, Michelangelo himself displayed tendencies towards Mannerism, notably in his vestibule to the Laurentian Library, in the figures on his Medici tombs, and above all in his Last Judgment.

2 Responses so far.

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