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European Art: Mannerism  
page: 1  2  

Primaticcio helped to establish a French variant of Mannerism known as the School of Fontainebleau. Centered around the court of Francis I, it was characterized by further exaggerations of proportions, an emphasis on gracefulness, and frequent eroticism.

Northern European artists such as the Fleming Frans Floris were also heavily influenced by contemporaneous Italian styles.

The Reputation of Mannerism

Oddly enough, from the decline of Mannerism until the late nineteenth century, art historians viewed Mannerism negatively as a revolt against the much-revered art of the High Renaissance. This alleged revolt represented to many art historians an ominous creative decline in the development of art, since the idealism and harmony of the High Renaissance had for centuries provided a hallmark of artistic perfection, and Mannerism seemed so contrary to these ideals.

Even revisionist views in the twentieth century initially perpetuated this notion: the example of modern art allowed Mannerism to be seen with new eyes, but scholars such as Walter Friedländer persisted in viewing the work of the Mannerists as a highly irrational reaction against the idealized beauty and rationality of the High Renaissance. They even referred to Mannerism as "anti-classical."

However, as later scholars such as John Shearman have explained, Mannerism was the product of a highly refined court society that valued artifice, elegance, and erudition in all aspects of culture. It was a natural outgrowth of the idealization of the High Renaissance rather than a revolt against it--that is, it was the extreme application of the goals and principles of this earlier period.

The Appeal to Gay Viewers

Mannerism in art and architecture has often appealed to gay viewers and collectors because of its exquisite refinement and frequent extravagance--tastes often ascribed (stereotypically) to male homosexuals. Certainly Mannerism's exaggerations and extremes of taste lend themselves to appreciation by viewers with a camp sensibility, and the uncertain sexual orientations of some of its practitioners is an added attraction.

Indeed, Mannerism's long rejection by mainstream art history has probably broadened its appeal to gays and lesbians, who likely identify with Mannerism's cultural marginalization.

Joe A. Thomas

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arts >> Pontormo, Jacopo

One of the most original and fascinating artists of the Italian Renaissance, Pontormo played a decisive role in helping to define Mannerism.


Arasse, Daniel. La renaissance maniériste. Paris: Galimard, 1997.

Freedberg, Sydney. Painting in Italy, 1500-1600. 3rd edition. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1993.

Friedländer, Walter J. Mannerism and Anti-Mannerism in Italian Painting. New York: Schocken, 1965.

Hauser, Arnold. Mannerism: The Crisis of the Renaissance and the Origin of Modern Art. New York: Knopf, 1965.

Shearman, John. Mannerism. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1967.

Würtenberger, Franzsepp. Mannerism: The European Style of the Sixteenth Century. Trans. Michael Heron. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1963.


    Citation Information
    Author: Thomas, Joe A.  
    Entry Title: European Art: Mannerism  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated September 14, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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