Letting go… with the Mannerists!


Pontormo, Jacopo, Descent from the cross, c. 1525, Santa Felicita Church, Florence, Italia.

Back to this idea of letting go (see post May 21st) let’s recall that in the course of the 16th century there was a kind of “letting go” movement; Mannerism.

The Mannerists were a wild bunch of show-off artists who lived from the middle to the end of the 16th century, mostly in Florence, Venice and Rome. “Show-offs” because they were the young virtuosos of their time, and “wild” in the sense that they were tired of the status quo established by the Great Three of the High Renaissance: Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Rafael. They were jaded by the same modes of representation and the rules dictated by the “old” art treatises of the time, one of them being Alberti’s Della Pittura. So they began to break many conventional rules of the time; they began to let go!

Form started to take precedence over content, asymmetry over symmetry; dissonance, rather than harmony, was stressed; distorted scale and exaggerated proportions gave birth to elongated limbs and weird personas. Single-point perspective was abandoned, making room for less centra­lized compositions which were hitherto much esteemed during the time of Alberti. The new paintings made use of darkness where they were formerly well lit; colours were vivid, sometimes discordant, and used for maximum emotional effect as we can see in this wonderful painting. Emotional expression and tension with a concentration on nude subjects in convoluted poses disturbed but also moved the public of the time. All these elements gave rise to a new art concept, called la maniera by Giorgio Vasari.

So why not, sometimes, follow the path of the Mannerists! If they did it, how can’t we?

Del Sarto, Beccafumi, Pontormo, Rosso, Parmigianino, Primaticcio, El Greco, Romano, Abbate, Tintoretto, were a few the letting go artists.

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