Mannerism, which literally means “style”, was a period in European art that began in Italy in the final years of the Renaissance and lasted until it was replaced by Baroque, about 1520 to 1600. During this time, young artists were trying to establish their own style, with a new approach to painting and interpretation of the human experience. They had their difficulties as it were. Virtually everything that could be done, had been done. The artists of the Renaissance, masters such as Raphael and Michelangelo, studied the human form and nature for inspiration.
Their art was balanced and harmonious. The proportions of their subjects were authentic and their art was often religious in nature. Mannerist, however, often painted their subjects with disproportionate features, such as elongated necks and limbs. Open spaces were filled with objects or fugues that were often unnecessary. Subjects’ poses were often difficult, if not impossible, for a real human to achieve, colors clashed, and themes were often grim and menacing, reflecting the upheaval of Europe at this time. During the 16th century, Rome was sacked, ending the Italian
Renaissance, the Catholic Church was losing ground during the Protestant Reformation, the Eighty-years’ War surged in the Netherlands and Spain, and the Plague killed millions across Europe and Asia. Many felt the disproportionate tone of Mannerism was a rejection of the balance of the High Renaissance and the idealism it represented (Smyth). Baroque style originated in the late 16th century and included art, music and architecture. Originally meaning “rough pearl”, Baroque is now used to mean “elaborate” or “dramatic”. At the time, it was intended to arouse strong emotion in TTS observers.
During the Council of Trend (1545-1563), the Catholic Church decided that artists should render their religious works to inform the illiterate, rather than the knowledgeable. They ordered that the message should be direct and that it should evoke strong emotions for the viewer, clearly challenging the Protestant Reformation and giving the Catholic Church back their image of grandeur and prestige. In painting, Baroque’s realism was a response to the fantasy of Mannerism and the focus shifted back again from the artist to the subject.
Baroque artists employed a ore balanced technique, richer colors, more elaborate settings, and a clearer message. They presented their art at the climax of the action, each piece telling a story, typically using all available space. Mannerist art lacked a story and was focused on the virtuosity of the artist. It was witty and exaggerated. Mannerist artists appealed to the intelligence and humor of art patrons, rejecting the stiffness and formality of the Renaissance. Baroque artists attempted to engage the more emotional and realistic aspects of life in their work, returning to the beauty of the
Renaissance, without the constraint and formality during the Baroque age, the world was on a course of discovery that would lead men to understand life and our place in the universe more than ever before. Sir Isaac Newton discovered the laws to gravity, Galileo observed celestial existence using the first telescopes, and physicians and scientists made huge strides in understanding the workings of the human body. Artists’ melodramatic use of lighting and space in their paintings reflected this age of discovery and experimentation. (Schaller)
In the Mannerist Bronzer’s Deposition of Christ (1540-1545), Chrism’s body is held by the Virgin Mary and supported by SST. John the Evangelist and Mary Magdalene. They are surrounded by onlookers while busy cherubs fill the air. The colors are bright pastels and the lighting is undefined. The fingers and toes of each subject are elongated, as is the neck of Mary Magdalene, and the faces reflect a rather neutral emotional state. Their positioning is graceful, yet unnatural. The individuals in the background appear detached and disinterested in the death of Christ.
On observation, one can appreciate the talent of the artist and is reminded of the sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary, but the feelings of grief and personal loss are absent as the painting takes on more of a decorative tone Rueben’ Baroque work, The Descent from the Cross (1612-1614), depicts Chrism’s body being removed from the cross by eight individuals including, the Virgin Mary, Joseph of Reanimate, SST. John, and Mary Magdalene. The colors used are deep and rich. The action fills the entire space of the painting and the movements and positions of the subjects appear natural and fitting.
The dark, late tone of the setting is illuminated by divine light as it traverses the gloomy, overcast sky. Rueben’ proportions are true and one can feel the grief of the participants as they lower their deceased Lord. The horror of the moment is evident. In Baroque art, the observer is engaged with the work and can feel part of the action (Hunt) Mannerist and Baroque styles emerged from the age of the Renaissance as the world, tired of its idealistic images, sought for more authentic and creative portrayals of life and existence. As the art world shifted from the stiff and idealistic
Renaissance to the emotional Baroque period, the unlikely bridge was the Mannerist style. In both The Descent from the Cross and Deposition of Christ, the artists depicted the death of Christ as a human tragedy. Although Bronzer’s painting lacks the emotion and suffering of Rueben’ painting, the observer of either work is forced to consider the agony of the Virgin Mary as she holds the body of Jesus. The coloring of Chrism’s flesh in both works is consistent with death and we can begin to understand the magnitude of the sacrifice that was made for the salvation of mankind.
This transition to realism made the impact of art personal to all who viewed it as art patrons were no longer Just wealthy aristocrats, but common citizens, as well. Artificial perfection and static imagery gave way to fluid movement, disharmony, emotion, and a sense of infinity. As much as Mannerist art and Baroque art differed, they were both responsible for ushering out the conventional rigidity and classicism of the Renaissance and allowing artists to depict the human condition in a more emotional and authentic manner.
Even if Mannerism was too quirky to endure, it allowed the world to demand art that everyone could identify with and enjoy. (Baroque) “Baroque”. (n. D. ). Retrieved from academics. Smart. Due/rebel/Survey of Art History II/Baroque. HTML web. 5 Deck 2013 Hunt, Martin, Rosenstein, and Smith . The Making of the West (third De. ). Boston: Bedford/ SST. Martin’s. 2010 Print Smyth, Craig Hugh. 1992. Mannerism and Mariner, with an introduction by Elizabeth Cropper. Vienna Web. 5 Deck 2013 Schaller, G. Iconography of Christian Art, Volvo. II, 1972 (English trans from German), Lund Humphreys, London, 2012 Print.