In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Mannerism

  • Introduction
  • Pre-16th-Century Origins
  • Mannerism as Crisis
  • Mannerism, Spirituality, and the Counter-Reformation
  • Mannerism and Classicism
  • Mannerism and Courtly Style
  • Formal Qualities and Working Practice
  • Painting
  • Sculpture
  • Architecture
  • Mannerism Outside of Italy

Renaissance and Reformation Mannerism
Anne H. Muraoka
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 October 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 October 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0125


Mannerism or maniera is a name given to a style and period in 16th-century Italian art, chronologically positioned between the High Renaissance and the Baroque periods. The term was first applied to painting, then later to sculpture and architecture. Mannerism remains the subject of much scholarly debate centering on questions of the precise date parameters for the style, its primary formal characteristics, its application, and meaning. Nevertheless, there is a general agreement that Mannerism presented a clear departure from High Renaissance classicism, formulated by a younger generation of artists who professionally matured in the wake of the death of Raphael in 1520. Although the Mannerists took the High Renaissance style as their point of departure, the Mannerist style was diametrically opposed to the rational, harmonious, and decorous ideals of High Renaissance classicism. Mannerism, while primarily an Italian phenomenon, spread throughout northern Europe partially as a result of the presence of Italian artists at the court of François I at Fontainebleau and the proliferation and dissemination of Mannerist engravings. In the north, Mannerism flourished particularly at aristocratic and princely courts, such as the court of the King of France, François I at Fontainebleau and the court of Emperor Rudolf II in Prague. The expansion of Mannerism as a phenomenon beyond Italy has also led to the questionable extension of its application to literature and music.

General Overviews

A reexamination of and renewed interest in Mannerism began in the 20th century with the advent of Expressionism. Scholars (initially German) saw a strong connection between the Expressionist and Mannerist style, particularly in the application of color to convey emotion, abstraction, fragmentation, and the intellectual approach to subjects. This parallelism validated looking at Mannerism anew, after many years of dismissal or omission in discussions of 16th-century Italian art and centuries of being subject to negative connotations.

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