Mannerism refers to a time of European art that began around 1520 in Italy, and lasted until around 1580 to 1600, when the Baroque style of art and architecture began to replace it, but it did continue in many forms until the 17th century. The characteristics of Mannerism include artificial qualities that go against the harmonious, natural elements of High Renaissance art, and a great deal of sophistication, complexity and innovation in design.
Michelangelo was one of the greatest practitioners of Mannerism for several reasons. Elegance and innovation are two of the primary elements of Mannerism, and Michelangelo certainly practiced both those elements in his art. Some of his greatest architectural and artistic endeavors contain these elements, combined with sophistication in the design and execution of the works such as the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. The paintings on the ceilings have stood the test of time, and retain their beauty, complexity and eloquence even today.
In addition, the concept of painting on the ceiling of a wondrous piece of architecture was also one of Michelangelo’s innovations, illustrating how he actively participated in the Mannerism movement. In architecture, Michelangelo also excelled as a Mannerist. “Mannerist architects were no less interested in ancient classical architecture than were their predecessors, but they found other qualities in ancient Roman architecture to exploit. In fact, they often displayed an even greater knowledge of antiquity than did earlier artists” (Italian Mannerism or Late Renaissnce, 2009).
Michelangelo’s greatest architectural achievements, such as the Laurentian Library in Florence, helped indicate he was a Mannerist by its’ obvious breaking of many architectural rules of the time, showing not only its elegance, but its novelty and sophistication, as well. Michelangelo uses classic design in his building, but adds a new way of assembling them throughout the design in novel and unusual motifs. In the Palazzo Farnese in Rome, Michelangelo used unnatural and manufactured views throughout the building, another trademark of Mannerist buildings. Many architects view Michelangelo as one of the geniuses of the movement.
His, “Medici Chapel in San Lorenzo was executed, in Vasari’s opinion, ‘in a style more varied and novel than that of any other master,’ and ‘thus all artists are under a great and eternal obligation to Michelangelo, seeing that he broke the fetters and chains that had earlier confined them to the creation of traditional forms” (Italian Mannerism or Late Renaissnce, 2009). Michelangelo knew how to push the envelope in design and execution, and was interested in change, rather than copying other styles, which are also elements of the Mannerist style of architecture.
His greatest Mannerist achievement is St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, a massive project that took him over 18 years to design, and was not completed before his death. This beautiful building was dominated by a huge dome that would have been incredible had it been completed during Michelangelo’s life. Later changes to the building altered the dome and its effect on the overall building design, but it was one of his greatest achievements, and the innovation and spectacular dimensions of the design helped cement Michelangelo as one of the premier Mannerist architects and artists of the day.
Mannerism eventually fell out of favor in Europe, and was replaced by other forms of architecture, including the intricate and detailed Baroque, which followed Mannerism. It was one of the greatest epics of Italian architecture and design, led by one of the greatest artists of all time, Michelangelo. Works Cited Italian Mannerism or Late Renaissnce. (2009, January 16). Retrieved from Italian Mannerism: http://www. cartage. org. lb/en/themes/arts/Architec/MannerismArchitecture/ItalianMannerism/ItalianMannerism. htm Janson’s History of Art. (2007). Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, Inc.
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