Mannerists: The first Modern Artists?

As college student, I studied Renaissance Art and its non-conformist painters, the Mannerists. When I first viewed Parmigianino’s work, “Madonna with the Long Neck”

Madonna with the Long Neck.
Madonna with the Long Neck.
, I found it so unsettling. It violated all the Renaissance compositions that reflected harmony and a sense of balance. The Madonna is extremely distorted and the baby on her lap is over-large, while the figure to her right is tiny. With the figures crammed in to her left, surely there is no symmetry. There is a leg coming out of nowhere, not seeming to be attached to anyone in particular. Pontormo’s “Descent from the Cross”
Descent from the Cross
Descent from the Cross
uses the Renaissance colors (pink, blue, red) but the figures are in various positions that are detached and unrelated to the Christ on the Cross. Perhaps this is a truer version of the chaos around the Crucifixion than the harmonious balance depicted in earlier Renaissance works of the same subject. As an abstract artist, I studied them more carefully and developed a respect for these rebels. Distortion, unbalance, and disharmony can certainly be seen in the work of contemporary artists.

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  1. What a fresh new look at the Mannerists, Carole! Thanks for opening my eyes to an art period I have not looked at for a very long time. I love your idea of the chaos around the crucifixion of Christ. So human a view, isn’t it, compared to formalized versions with stiff figures. It breaks the icon mold, and I would imagine that upset the ecclesiastic community.

    Great article. Glad to be sharing the page with you! Best regards. Susan

    1. Thank you so much Susan. I appreciate that someone took the time to read it. I really do love those guys…..and I think it was mostly guys.

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