Mannerism: The Elegance of Renaissance (Part 2)Category: General   Oct 4th 2016  11:25AM   0

The new generation of artists turned away from naturalism, classicism, and logic in the early 1500s. Mannerism was soon born. Mannerism is my favorite style of the Renaissance period because of its unnatural, manipulated and mysterious look. The head, hands, and feet for the Mannerists were considered the carriers of grace, and the clever depiction of each of those parts was evidence of artistic skill. I am obsessed with the shape of hands – gracious with long fingers, slightly unnatural and almost weightless. Mannerists paint with sophisticated elegance. I’ve always found that elegance is more attractive than beauty alone. Some people call mannerism “Stylish Style” – not only because of the subject matter and how it’s presented, but the combination of technical difficulty and skill, and sophistication in an unusual sense.

Bronzino, An Allegory with Venus and Cupid (1540-1550)

Bronzino was a Florentine and painter to the first grand duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I de’ Medici.

This scene might suggest that love is foolish. Complex discourse is going on around the nude female body. Venus with her beautiful white complexion highlighted by the darkness of the background alludes to a physical and material beauty made to be realistic by the imperfection of the form. Symbols in this painting vary from the golden apple in Venus’s left hand, which might represent an element related to the Trojan War, to the masks, which might imply deception or hiding. This painting, like visual poetry, is an intellectual puzzle with meaning, unlike typical Renaissance paintings that have a sense of balance and structure. Mannerist painters were less inclined to represent a “natural” or “balanced” scene or idea. Artifice is a central feature. A conclusion never comes to light for this painting, and we will likely never discover what this painting means.

Bronzino, Portrait of a Young Man (1530-1545)

While not typical of the beauty that exists among the other artworks I’ve selected, this is my absolute favorite. A reflection of the true mannerist style, I find this portrait utterly elegant and beautiful. The way it’s painted, and how this young man presents himself – his manner of dress, his stance, and the expression on his face, all seem to exude relaxed sophistication. Social circles during this era thrived on superficiality, and this painting provides a classic example of this. The young man featured in the portrait looks distant and detached. An artificial, superficial kind of presentation. His porcelain skin almost represents having a mask. Something to be seen, but what lies beneath is hidden. The idea is to search for meaning and deconstruct his demeanor.

Bronzino was one of the masters of oil technique in the 16th century.  If you look closely, you can’t see a single brush stroke; it’s so polished. This painting is not just a beautiful work of art, but a hyper-sophisticated piece – one of the trademarks of mannerism. And, the best part? You can see this at the Metropolitan Museum of Art right here in New York City.

Parmigianino, Antea (1530-1535)

Anything related to intriguing women in history fascinates me. The identity of this porcelain beauty has been the cause of speculation for centuries. Some writers have claimed Antea was Parmigianino’s mistress, who was a famous 16th-century Roman courtesan. It’s also assumed that most of the items worn by Antea — including the marten fur, gold chain, head brooch, embroidered apron, and golden sleeves — were gifts commonly presented by lovers, often with the hope of erotic fulfillment. By wearing them, a woman stated her acceptance of her lover’s advances, and the way Antea touches the jewels in the painting also implies her acceptance. 

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