El GrecoThe Agony In the Garden, a mannerist style of art by EL Greco, proclaims a sense ofspiritual power of religious faith which accomplishes El Greco’s aim to move hisaudience. El Greco was born on the island of Crete and lived from 1541 to 1614. Herepresented the most characteristic figure of Spanish Mannerism. El Greco wasinfluenced by and became acquainted with the art of Titian and Jacopo Bassano in Venicewhere he studied in 1566.
In addition to visiting Italy, El Greco made his way to Rome,Parma and probably Florence. On his travels he became more familiar with the work ofParmigianino and the work of Correggio. In El Greco’s use of form can be seenFlorentine Mannerism. Venetian Mannerism can be seen in the peculiar brilliance of hiscoloring. The plans for the construction of the Escurial and the discussion of works of artbeing selected by Philip II, probably attracted El Greco to Spain. However, El Grecofailed to satisfy the Italianate tastes of the King.
He lived virtually uninterruptedly inToledo from 1575 on. In Toledo he formed friendships with men of advanced beliefs andhumanist interests. The monastic, from which his prime commitment came, were glad todecorate their churches and cloisters with his elevated visionary paintings. El Grecopaintings bordered on a supernatural world of creative fantasy.
Most of his paintingssurvive in a number of copies painted in his own hand. El Greco’s studio whichemployed a large number of assistants also produced many contrasts of his works. People were very curious about his paintings with their unusual setting and flickeringimpressiveness. In The Agony In The Garden there are two planes displayed in the art work thatare disconnected by a few bare branches that contain fugitive leaves. The upper planeconsists of the vision of Christ set against a large rock with a few trees. Christ is kneelingin a reddish-purple robe, with hands stretched out toward the ground.
He turns towardthe floating angel who is painted in pearly greys. Behind the angel, on the left arespinning clouds. Preceding from an outline of an imaginary town, on the right, aresoldiers carrying flags. The inconceivable impression of the picture is due to the contrastof not only passionate and cerebral but in terms of colour- between the two planes andtheir figural content as well. This painting is the last date of the El Greco pictures in Budapest and is from thelast period of the artists life. The Biblical occurrence illustrated is standardized on twolevels, one above the other.
The group of the three sleeping apostles fill the lower plane. We find comparable groups of apostles in pictures by Giovanni Bellini. El Greco returnsto Quattrocento etiquette, especially in the manner in which the sleeping gray-hairedapostle bends his arm around his head. Of the abundant versions of this painting in the artist’s own hand there is a smallercopy in the Museum at Lille, and other variants are to be found in the Episcopal palace inthe Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires. The variant most similarly related to thepainting in Budapest is the larger-scale version in the Church of Santa Maria at Andujarwhich displays other works of mannerist art. The mannerist style thrived at the same time as High Renaissance and Baroque art.
Mannerism, like many other names attached to so many other periods of art, was a nameconceived in disdain and impudence. Maniera, meaning maner, was correlated with theartist who worked in the manner of someone else. Like an imitator who adapted andsometimes perfected the forms of another. However, there are characteristics of theMannerist style which disconnected it from the period of the High Renaissance as well asthe distinguishing it from the emerging Baroque.
A number of crucial artist ofMannerism have displayed meaningful works. Only in the last ninety years hasMannerism come to be respected as an independent style in the history of art. Beforerepresentatives of the style were classified under either the Renaissance or the Baroque. Some of the most excellent Mannerist were banned from the gallery walls and the churchaltars.
However, they produced works of great emotional impact. Probably the findingsof El Greco early in this century provided for the re-judgment of Mannerism as a style inits own right. Mannerism became a style bleeding with imaginative content which haddeliberately broken with reality, and often bordered beyond understanding and theirrational. Mannerism was thought of as ?anticlassical? in that it broke the classic tradition-the tradition of Antiquity and the Renaissance. Mannerism surfaced in the first half ofthe sixteenth century in Florence and later throughout Italy who was desolate by theFrench and Spanish armies.
In the full tide of the classic Renaissance a number ofstrange, restless works had come into existence. These new paintings first appeared inthe field of religious composition. They no longer expressed the classic beauty andsymmetry the reassurance of the Renaissance, which everyone could understand andcherish. Their aim was to be bright and determined on external effects. In many casesthey were more reminiscent of the conjuring tricks of a magician than the work of art thatsoothes and delights. Paintings of the Mannerist style tended to express beauty that affected a fashionand in turn produced an impact with supernatural visions.
In other cases, the painterseemed chiefly concerned with tricks of brawn and muscle. Mannerist artists enjoyeddisagreement and paradox for their own sake in order to disconcert by the direct oppositeitself. The difficulty of the subject-matter made the artist well aware that they were livingin a world of tension. The interlacing conflicts expressed themselves in the spirit form ofmany works. A reason why the art of the Mannerist period was quicker to reflect the restlessuncertain atmosphere of the time was because the uncertainties of the situation in Italy. The failure of ambitions to integrate city states into large unity did not lead to thedevelopment of bourgeois republics.
It opened the way for common bankers to take overthe control of the cities and the patronage of art. According to the tasteful explanations of the Patonic Academy in Florence, Mannerist paintings ?should reflect the ideals of the artists, they should be intellectualmirror images of the arts rather than servile imitations of nature. ? This standard wasembraced by the first generation of Mannerists in Florence and Northern Italy. Itordained artistic method in Rome, Venice and Fontainbleu, and even more so in theNorthern centers of art. It was due to this propose that the figures seem to lose contactwith nature and man’s actual environment, and to take their place in the painting as iffloating in some kind of unreal medium, inclined beside one another, but joined by anemotional or intellectual bond. El Greco’s sleeping apostles are creatures of loneliness,discovered in the shell of their dreams.
There are several reasons for the relatively swiftspreading of Mannerist style throughout cultivated Europe, and for its similarity, despitegeographical distances and economic differences. Both the uniqueness of its style and itsspreading were partly due to the peculiar popularity of the techniques of reproductionthen available. Literary sources refer the prevalent diffusion of engravings of the work ofItalian masters. Through the proficient genius of El Greco, who took a acute interest in theintellectual currents of his time the style spread as far as distant Spain. At the same timethat Spanish and French invaders were in control of Italy, France, Spain, England and theGerman city states were fighting their own long-enduring wastes.
The characteristics of Mannerism first made their appearance in the full during theperiod of the classical Renaissance. It began to spread and finally it prevailed. Similarly,in the second half of the sixteenth century, the Baroque style began to come forth andconquer. The judgment of the Council of Trent ran counter to the philosophy as well asthe literature and art of the Renaissance. The decisions also disagreed with both the spritof classical mythology and the conclusions of natural sciences.
In fact they engage inactive battle for absolutism in the rule of the Church and the temporal monarch. Thechurches of the Jesuit order considered the new standard in art. They did not advocatesilent dedication, they were designed as mediums for the preacher and the religiouspropagandist. Making use of the documents and the characteristics of the Manneristsartists, the new style was a form of assertion which alarmed a sacred faith in the believer,giving him an active sense of partaking in the mysteries of religion. The solemn guarantyof the Renaissance portraits, the stiff and chill portraits of Mannerism were replaced byradiant allegorical representations of the dominant princes and monarchs producing afeeling of awe and acquiescence before their almost superhuman power in the spectator’sbreast. Paintings were of classical gods and goddesses, extraordinary in flying draperiesand their fervid and unsettled indications.
However, this was all that cultivated Europe had in common during the Baroqueperiod. The international similarity of Mannerist art which had lasted for about acentury, disintegrated England, but the widespread notions of art began to contrast inFrance, Italy and Spain. The bourgeois perspective of the Dutch Baroque naturallyfamiliarized the Dutch painters towards realism. There is no dilemma in determiningwhether one is looking at the work of a Northern or Southern arts, an Italian or a Dutch.
The national characteristics break through the thin international coating that developedduring the Mannerist period. The diffusion and victory of Baroque art was at the sametime a success for unique national characteristics. Some Mannerist artist were able tocombine themselves in the melting pot of the European public and benefited most formthe prudent principles of their times. A Baroque painter even conserved his nationalcharacteristics.
Baroque made use of characteristics of the Mannerist style by engaging and futurematuring them. There was more unity in Mannerist style’s outweighing ideas and morevariance in its forms of presentation. Classicism, however, was piercingly against everything mutual to Mannerism and the Baroque. It condemned Mannerism in someunstable terms, with all its integrity and corruption’s.
The Masters, such as El Greco were forgotten, but that taste in art could not behidden forever. Mannerist art came back to life after it had been dead for a few centuries. It fist came back to life with the discovery of El Greco and others. BibliographyBousquet, J.
(1964). La Peinture manieriste. NeuchatelHaraszti-Takacs, Marianne. (1968). The Masters of Mannerism. Corvina Press.
Hauser, A. (1964). Der Manierismus. Munich. Sherarman, J.
(1967). Mannerism. London. Wolf, R.
and Millen, R. (1968). Renaissance and Mannerist Art. Harry N Abrams, Inc.Arts Essays