‘Mannerism art’, is a term derived from the Italian word ‘maniera’ which means style. During 1510 and 1530, artists in Florence found a new source of inspiration from classical antiquity to add style to the changing world. This led to the emergence of the art movement called Mannerism in the late Renaissance. Mannerism is a fine line of the interconnection of renaissance art and Baroque style.

In simple terms, mannerists artists and sculptures exaggerated the idea of style to create an artificial aesthetic in their art forms. Without really copying the Renaissance artforms, mannerist artists focused on the principles of the same and exaggerated it. This made a difference between the ideal kind of Renaissance arts and the self-expressionism form of Mannerism. The style of Mannerism is also called the ‘rebirth’ of all the innovations of the renaissance period up to its perfection.

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English Mannerism: Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, 1546, a rare English Mannerist portrait by a Flemish immigrant_©Wikimedia Commons

Due to the intellectual approach towards art during the period, earlier focus points like authentic figures and objects were discarded by removing total harmony. The style was not bound to any planes, axes, or real correctness. Due to this decorative sentiment, asymmetry and artifice became an integral style factor of mannerism art forms.

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Joachim Wtewael – Perseus and Andromeda, 1616, Louvre_©Wikimedia Commons

Like other major art forms and the revolutions around it, history influenced mannerism a lot. During this period, European history was changing in terms of politics, economics, and religion. Due to this, churches influenced the masses attending it. Moreover, when Protestantism arose, new beliefs and faith-related to churches also emerged. This influenced the people, and the way art was created and portrayed.

According to scholars, there are two types of Mannerism: Early Mannerism and High Mannerism. Early Mannerism during 1520-1530 was also known as ‘anti-classical. As an initial experimental phase, artists tended to go against the Renaissance artforms and tried to exaggerate the same. Some of the artists during this period were Pontormo, Rosso Florentino, and Giulio Romano. Then developed High Mannerism between 1535 and 1580 during which artists took the art from the renaissance and inculcated the philosophy of the same in their own. Artists like Tintoretto and Bronzino collaborated during the High Renaissance.

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Early Mannerism: Jacopo Pontormo, Entombment, 1528; Santa Felicità, Florence_©Wikimedia Commons
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High Mannerism: Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time by Bronzino, c. 1545; National Gallery, London_©Wikimedia Commons( http://gallerix.ru )

Some of the characteristics were:

Exaggeration | Mannerism art

During Early Mannerism, artists used extreme exaggeration to cancel the renaissance classical art. This was achieved by distorting the body proportions with unrealistic sizes of the anatomical body parts like limbs. To express the exaggeration, furthermore, rendering also took a turn from the true to nature style. An example of such an artist is Francesco Mazzola, known as Parmigianino in his ‘Madonna of the Long Neck’.

Parmigianino's Madonna with the Long Neck (1534–1540) _©Wikimedia Commons
Parmigianino’s Madonna with the Long Neck (1534–1540) _©Wikimedia Commons


To add up the difference, the decoration was in plenty without any limits. Not highly seen in High Mannerism, artists like Sandro Botticelli in Early Mannerism incorporated this into his artworks. Botticelli included floral motifs into his massive mythological artworks such as Primavera, which were influenced by millefleur (as from French mille-fleurs, meaning “a thousand flowers”) tapestry from the Medieval Era. Figures were portrayed in Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s arts, with the exception that he composed them of organic components such as vegetables, fruits, and meats, and several other items such as books and tableware as hats.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Vertumnus the god of seasons, 1591, Skokloster Castle_©Wikimedia Commons
Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Vertumnus the god of seasons, 1591, Skokloster Castle_©Wikimedia Commons


Colors provided an artificial sense to the artworks. Totally neglecting the natural colors used by the Renaissance artists, mannerist artists used artificial and unrealistic hues. With the palette of color exaggerated as well, the artist used strong contrasts in skin tones and other natural spaces. While some Renaissance painters used Renaissance methods such as chiaroscuro, Mannerism painters used these in striking contrast to Renaissance artists such as Leonardo da Vinci. Scenes had a more dramatic impact because of the emphasis on light and dark.

The artworks of Mannerists such as Jacopo da Pontormo, one of the art movement’s pioneers, cite an instance of the often defined “rich” use of color. His picture, The Deposition from the Cross (1528), features virtually legendary color renditions; we observe pinks, blues, and green on the scene.

Being a lesser-known style, mannerism started to decline in the 1590s. It was an alienated style of art to the renaissance painters. Unable to differentiate between the real and unreal scenes, the art forms of the Mannerism period were more than an illusion. This resulted in the formation of the Baroque period.

Mannerism, however, remained as a type of royal art beyond Italy far into the 17th century. In the United Kingdom, it was known as Elizabethan, then Jacobean, court painting, whilst in France, it was known as the Henry II style at the royal court at Fontainebleau, first under Francis I and subsequently under Henry IV. Another prominent benefactor of Mannerism was the Hapsburg Emperor Rudolf II, who was stationed in Prague. Mannerism fell into disuse for more than two centuries (c.1650-1900), but throughout the first part of the twentieth century, art critics began to adopt an even more favorable stance, praising the modernism of artists including El Greco.

El Greco, Laocoön (1610–1614), National Gallery of Art_©Wikimedia Commons
El Greco, Laocoön (1610–1614), National Gallery of Art_©Wikimedia Commons


  1. My Modern Met. (2018). Mannerism: The Style That Put an Elaborate Twist on Renaissance Art. [online] Available at: https://mymodernmet.com/what-is-mannerism/.
  2. artincontext (2021). Mannerism Art – A Look at the Ins and Outs of the Mannerism Period. [online] artincontext.org. Available at: https://artincontext.org/mannerism-art/.
  3. Visual-arts-cork.com. (2019). Mannerism Art Movement. [online] Available at: http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/history-of-art/mannerism.htm.
  4. The Art Story. (2018). Mannerism Movement Overview. [online] Available at: https://www.theartstory.org/movement/mannerism/.
  5. USEUM. (n.d.). Mannerism: History of Mannerism. [online] Available at: https://useum.org/Mannerism/History-of-Mannerism.

Devika Bhaskaran is an architecture student with absolute love for writing, poetry and travelling. She believes that there are beautiful and mind-blowing untold stories within people and places and she hopes to be a voice for the same. She is in a constant search for architectural wonders that are accessible to all kinds of humans.