Mannerism, Like Every Period in Art Thesis

Pages: 10 (3044 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 15  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Art  (general)

Mannerism, like every period in art or cultural movement was tributary to its time and the place it emerged from. Some scholars frame the period of mannerism between 1520 and 1620, others between 1520 and 1600, depending on the art form. It is certain that it emerged in Italy, at the pique of Renaissance and led into Baroque. Mannerism is a period of individualism, intellectualism and to a certain extent, anti-classicism, but it never escaped the laws of the classic style, characterized by balance, even when things got out of proportion, perspective was intentionally misrepresented and mystery was the key ingredient introduced to appeal to a highly intellectual and advised target public.

The sixteenth century in Europe is characterized by spirit of adventure fuelled by the discovery of new territories, new technological means and scientific breakthroughs. The European countries discover new resources and means of production and capitalism is on its way. The preoccupation with technology in the seventeenth century is today considered "the turning point between ancient and modern science."

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The mannerist Italian painters were preoccupied to use their innovative means in their art, appealing to the soul and mind of those who could vibrate at an out of the ordinary form of expression. The very word "mannerism" was destined to produce two opposite reactions to those whose art was coined as "mannerist." On one hand the Italian painters who adopted Michelangelo's and Raphael's style in their work style made some critics consider them imitators, because they were painting "alla maniera," following the style of another, thus lacking originality, on the other hand, for Vasari for example, those same painters were "mannerist" not because they were imitating another one's style, but precisely because they had their own individual style, "maniera." Weurtenberger and Heron share the same opinion, on the other hand they give full credit to Michelangelo as the father of the movement. They define the "mannerists" as: "The special groups of artists who copied the maniera di Michelangelo in the sixteenth century and as it were accepted a tow from that towering giant."

Thesis on Mannerism, Like Every Period in Art or Assignment

Maniates observes that mannerists were eager to please their audiences, but they were as eager to surprise them with their new forms of expression. She calls the mannerist artist the "magus" who "hopes to prove the originality of his inspiration as well as his participation in a collective front of avant-garde progress. Progress and individualism are thus fused into a dynamic cultural configuration."

Researching the critics of the mannerism and the history of art from as early as the seventeenth century until today, Bousquet and Taylor discover that the first to have attributed the pejorative meaning to the word "mannerism" seems to have been Pietro Bellori. His treatise on the lives of modern painters, published at Rome, in 1672, assesses the style of the painters in the late seventeenth and early seventeenth centuries as imitations of the masters. "From that time on Mannerism became another word for academicism, hollow affectation, and artificiality. It became more than an art historical term, it became an insult. The Grand Larousse du XIXe siecle defines Mannerism as a "defect in the artist who abandons himself to the mannered style (genre maniere)."

The revival of the classics, with their norms of balance, rigor, eloquence and harmony, characteristic of the Renaissance period, started the quest for perfection in all art forms. As long as painters, sculptors and architects, poets and musicians found the perfect forms, they were supposed to find the final form of expression and thus close the way to innovation. That was, of course, not the case. The meaning of perfection was disputed among all those who claimed to have come near it and philosophical considerations were to be taken in the account in the deliberations on perfection through art. "Mannerism is not a naive style; it is consciously guided by higher vision and disposes of a highly developed theoretical literature which is not merely a by-product; if anything, it gives a philosophical exposition of the driving force behind practical artistic activity."

Thus, mannerism becomes a form of rebellion against all attempts to claim that perfection can be attained through art, inspired by the curiosity of the restless artist who is perpetually on the quest for new meanings and ways to appeal to those who contemplate his art. The Renaissance period was the time to put the human being back, in the middle of all things and to explore the human soul. The exploration led to the depths that could not be explored by any conventional means, leading the explorer towards meditation, mysticism, daring him to use unconventional methods to appeal to the others. Mannerism was born not necessarily as a result of he rebellious spirit of those who were not ready to accept that art had reached its highest point in its means of expression, but as a necessity to move forward. It was an exploration, a search and an experimentation at the same time. Maniates emphasizes the evidence that makes mannerism as period that followed naturally the revived classicism of the Renaissance and led all artistic forms into the Baroque: "Intellectuals of maniera see their task as one of perfecting the already perfect, and herein lie the reasons for their various styles. While some of their refinements amount to nothing more than trivial stylizations, others reach a level of brilliant originality. But in view of their recognition of the need to surpass the classical heights of antiquity and of the Renaissance, one can hardly call them anticlassicists."

At the same time, Maniates emphasizes that mannerism was encouraged by the art patrons who were eager to play the role of a Mecena and were also capable to understand innovative and unusual means of expression that appealed to a specialized public and stirred the need to explore other levels of conscience and new territories of the spirit.

Houser considers the socio-economic factors of the late fifteenth century in Italy and the rest of Europe that contributed to the mood and esthetic preferences of those who were affected by all the social changes. The tension free formulae of balance propounded by classical art are o longer adequate; and yet they are still adhered to-sometimes even more faithfully, more anxiously, more desperately, than would be the case in a relationship which is taken for granted... For in essentials, the artists as a collective body and the public are constituted as they were in the Age of Renaissance, although the ground beneath their feet is already beginning to quake.

The historic perspective and an analysis of the evolution of art, starting with the late Middle Ages until today, makes the task of the art historian easier in assessing periods like that of Mannerism and finding explanations for the artistic expression produced by the social and economic changes happening in the period and affecting the world at a larger scale than ever before. The physical boundaries were expanded and the possibilities offered by the scientific discoveries and the mass spread of knowledge made possible by the mechanical printing press expanded the mind of those artists who were led by their genius into finding new appropriate means of expression.

The universe outside and inside the human spirit became suddenly much bigger than what astronomy and philosophy considered before. The mannerism appeared as an art court, in a very limited environment that was favorable to artificiality and the barriers of the world imposed by those who were paying for the artworks, but the artist who came from a different world used his enlarged vision and intuition to appeal to a universal public, conditioned only by a free spirit and a higher intellectual capacity.." The artificial atmosphere of these courts encouraged maniera, a style particularly congenial to an aesthetic steeped in criteria of extravagant elegance, cerebral complexity, and titillating novelty that reputedly raised the art of living to a level of esoteric preciosity. Self-conscious refinement was the watchword of mannerist society."

Maniates points out that the mannerist academies that emerged during the sixteenth century were initially the result of the desire to encourage researches in all fields and systematically disseminate knowledge. In science two important academies should be mentioned as related to mannerism: the Accademia dei Segreti founded by "Giovanni Battista della Porta, "a body that supported research in astronomy, astrology, experimental mechanics, and natural magic" and "the famous Accademia dei Lincei operated quietly in Rome until it was disbanded because of ecclesiastical disapproval of Galileo Galilei's theories."

Theatre and literature were also two art fields that were strongly supporting the mannerist movement. Accademia Olimpica in Vicenza is worth mentioning for its mounting of Edipo tiranno for the inauguration of Palladio's Teatro Olimpico, in 1585.

In literature, there are several academies that played an important role in the period of mannerism: Accademia Fiorentina appeared under the leadership of Verachi. A part of its members will later found a rival academy: Accademia degli Alterati. In the same period, Florenza gave the world Accademia della Crusca that was… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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