Mannerism (1520-1590)

Mannerism was born in Italy as a reaction to the balance of form and proportions during the High Renaissance era.

The Deposition by Pontornmo. Arched painting of 9 people who look concerned and sad. They are dressed in blues and reds.
The Deposition (1526-8) by Jacopo Pontormo.

Image source: by ideacreamanuelaPps

Mannerism Painting Features

There are two distinct styles of Mannerist painting: Early Mannerism and High Mannerism. The former is known for its “anti-classical” style, while the latter is an intellectual style with sophisticated features. As a whole, Mannerist painting is more fantastical than Renaissance painting, which can be seen in elongated human figures, unusual lighting or perspective, and vivid colors.

A painting by Arcimboldo of a man made out of fruit and plants.
Giuseppe Arcimboldo “Vertumnus (1590) – Rudolf II”

Image source: by Swallowtail Garden Seeds

Mannerism innovation was more important than the actual subject question. The realism of earlier Renaissance conception of art allowed an artificial appearance. Further, emotion is conveyed through contorted scenes, which require an intellectual response from the viewer, such as feeling of tension or anxiety.

The Virgin Mary on the right in a red dress, while the angel talks to her on the left.
Andrea Del Sarto, Annunciation

Image source: by Perlade

Mannerism Artists

These are the most important artists of this style:

  • Michelangelo -Best known for his Sistine Chapel frescoes, such as The Last Judgement
Photo of the The Last Judgement mural on the wall of a chapel. Lots of angels, and naked human forms fill the wall. Vivid blues, greens and reds are used.
The Last Judgement

Image source: by archer10 (Dennis)

  • Correggio – Famous for his sentimental narrative works and his light radiating from the child Christ
  • Parmigianino – An influential master from Parma
  • Giorgio Vasari – A second rank painter who wrote “Lives of the Artists,” and he designed the Uffizi in Florence
  • Tintoretto – A drawing expert who composed many religious paintings
Parmigianino's Madonna with the Long Neck painting.
Madonna with the Long Neck (1534-40) by Parmigianino

Image source: by irinaraquel

A religious painting by Tintoretto with 3 distinct levels of people. At the top, there is a man with a gold shiny light behind him (likely Jesus), and a woman to his left (likely Mary).
Paradiso (1588-94) by Tintoretto

Image source: by Sailko


  • Giuseppe Arcimboldo – Known for his bizarre fruit and vegetable portraits
  • Annibale Carracci -From Bologna, he was noticed for his fresco paintings in the Farnese Gallery
  • Adam Elsheimer – had an exquisite way of depicting landscapes, and he influenced Claude Lorrain, Rubens, and Rembrandt.
The Baptism of Christ painting on the wall. Four angles in the sky ahead, while Christ is baptized by another man as people watch from the right side.
The Baptism of Christ (1599) by Adam Elsheimer

Image source: by DJANDYW.COM


While sculpture in the High Renaissance period has perfect proportions as in Michelangelo’s David, Mannerist sculpture, had very long forms, spiral angels, and twisted poses. In addition to this, Mannerist sculptors used to work with precious metals frequently, which further differs from the sculptors of the High Renaissance.

Perseus With the Head of Medusa in his left hand statue in a dark metal.
Perseus with the head of Medusa (1545–1554) by Benvenuto Cellini

Image source: by storem

“Figura Serpentinata” is a style of sculpture typical of Mannerism. Famous examples include the works by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo. The change of norms from the High Renaissance brought created the “Serpentita” style. Further, the Mannerist structures became systematized and rendered in a pure form. The theme of powerlessness, common to the style, is evident in many works, including Giambologna’s “The rape of Sabine Women.”

Rape of the Sabine Women sculpture of two men fighting over a distressed woman naked.
The rape of Sabine women (1583) Giambologna

Image source: by rjhuttondfw

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