According to Wikipedia Encycolpedia, “mannerism is the term applied to an artistic style, usually painting, which emerged after the Sack of Rome in 1527, and in concept of time immediately followed the High Renaissance.” Simon Watson Taylor identified mannerism as, “The artistic expression of an epoch, the artistic style which prevailed in the art of all Europe for roughly one hundred years.”

Simon Watson Taylor also added, “The mannerist period was perhaps the richest and most diverse period in the whole history of European painting.” During this particular period of time, mannerist art brought forth many talented artists, with great imaginations, who traveled and worked the cities and courts throughout Europe.

Michelangelo was a very well known Renaissance artist. As stated in Understanding Art 8th Edition, “Renaissance art is a return to the realistic depiction of nature through keen observation.” Michelangelo is known for his paintings, sculptures, architecture, and poetry. During the course of his lifetime, Michelangelo actually had two biographies published, one of which was written by Giorgio Vasari. As stated in Wikipedia Encycolpedia, Giorgio Vasari had this to say about Michelangelo, “He was a pinnacle of all artistic achievement since the beginning of the Renaissance, a viewpoint that continued to have currency in art history for centuries.” Giorgio Vasari also wrote, “That throughout his lifetime, Michelangelo was often referred to as Il Divino meaning

‘the divine one’, an appropriate sobriquet given his intense spirituality.” In addition, Giorgio Vasari said, “One of the qualities most admired by his contemporaries was his terribilità, a sense of awe-inspiring grandeur, and it was the attempts of subsequent artists to imitate Michelangelo’s impassioned and highly personal style that resulted in the movement of mannerism.”

The Geometric period technically lasted for about two centuries early on in Greek history. However, the Renaissance artists did enjoy incorporating geometrical shapes into their artwork, with the help from the figures in their paintings. Leonardo da Vinci is also another famous Renaissance artist, who used geometric shapes within his artwork. In the painting, “Madonna of the Rocks” Leonardo da Vinci arranged the figures so that they were in a pyramidal structure.

According to Understanding Art 8th Edition, “several characteristics separate mannerist art from the art of the Renaissance and Baroque periods: distortion and elongation of figures; flattened, almost two-dimensional space; lack of a defined focal point; and the use of discordant pastel hues.”

Michelangelo, a true Renaissance man from the Renaissance era, created countless masterpieces. Jacopo da Pontormo, a representative of early mannerism, also created many beautiful pieces of artwork. Comparing Michelangelo’s painting “The Last Judgment” to Jacopo da Pontormo’s painting “Entombment”, there is a definite feel of three-dimensional space added to Michelangelo’s painting. The figures have dark outlines and shadows to help with the effect of the three-dimensional space.

According to Understanding Art 8th Edition, “Jacopo da Pontormo’s figures are pressed against the picture plane, moving within a very limited space.” Michelangelo’s figures have the appearance of weightlessness, while Jacopo da Pontormo’s figures appear to push out towards the edges of the painting. The figures in “The Last Judgment” are extremely realistic looking, as if an actual human being is sitting inside the painting. While, in “Entombment” the figures are slightly distorted. Their faces all have the same timid, surprised type look to them, but that could be because the figures eyebrows are arched fairly high.

The differences between the two styles are incredible. As stated in Understanding Art 8th Edition, “mannerist artists abandoned copying directly from nature and copied art instead. Works then became ‘secondhand’ views of nature.” However, it is quite intriguing that the mannerist artists did in fact change the style of painting to make it their own. Or possibly another idea would be, maybe the mannerist artists could not paint as realistic as Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci, and that is why the paintings turned out the way that they did.

Nevertheless, it is stated in the Wikipedia Encyclopedia, “After the realistic depiction of the human form and the mastery of perspective achieved high Renaissance Classicism, some artists started to deliberately distort proportions in disjointed, irrational space for emotional and artistic effect.” Both styles are extremely beautiful; however, the mannerist art style is completely unique from that of  the Renaissance artwork.

The mannerist artistic style did not fail because the artists had realized that there were a wide range of facial expressions that could be used in their paintings. None of which were ever considered wrong or untrue to the human figures depicted in the paintings, it is just considered different. Therefore, the mannerist artist soon figured out that the styles were unlimited.

Simon Watson Taylor wrote, “Parmigianino, Jacopo da Pontormo, Rosso Fiorentino, Angelo Bronzino, and the others are artists who cultivate style, who place the accent less on what they are saying than on the manner of saying it.” In addition, Simon Watson Taylor said, “The elongation of the human figure and the use of the serpentine line were not confined solely to Parmigianino, Jacopo da Pontormo, and Angelo Bronzino. They were also characteristic traits of the School of Fontainebleau. This tendency is strong in the works of El Greco in Spain.”

According to Wikipedia Encyclopedia, “The works of the School of Fontainebleau are characterized by the extensive use of stucco, moldings and picture frames, and frescos, and elaborate, and often mysterious, system of allegories and mythological iconography.” The School of Fontainebleau influenced many French artists who had worked with the Italian artists, through the mannerist artistic style.

Doménicos Theotocópoulos, who always wrote his name in Greek letters, had changed his name to El Greco, meaning “the Greek”. El Greco did quite a bit of traveling throughout his life. He had decided that Toledo was going to be his home. According to Wikipedia Encyclopedia, El Greco had this to say about Michelangelo, “He was a good man, but he did not know how to paint.” What an interesting comment.

El Greco is essentially in debt to Michelangelo for his beautiful pieces of artwork, which resulted in the mannerist movement. Each artist has his or her own artistic style, but that does not mean that a famous, talented artist, such as Michelangelo, cannot paint just because he does not feel that color is the most important element in painting.


Fichner-Rathus, Lois. Understanding Art 8th Edition. The College of New Jersey, Copyright 2007. Page numbers 352, and 378-379.

Taylor, Simon Watson. Mannerism: The Painting and Style of the Late Renaissance. Braziller. New York, 1964. Page numbers 23-27

 Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia. Mannerism. <>