Chapter 13: High Renaissance & Mannerism in Italy
As quickly as the all-to-brief era of the High Renaissance unfolded, it was ended with the sacking of Rome by Charles V, during the Late Renaissance. And then even more quickly, Mannerism, appeared within certain circles of nobles. Mannerism was an art movement which lasted roughly from the 1520's- 1560's. Certain tendencies in the art produced at that time began to reveal a reactionary era, one working against the classical precepts of the earlier, Renaissance periods. One of the earliest examples of this comes from Michelangelo Buonarroti, himself, in his painting, the Last Judgement. With its hierarchical drama and swirl of bodies, it introduces a systemic kind of chaos which probably begins in advance of the sacking. Nevertheless, it is shown as an apocalyptic event that the book of Revelations describes as one happening at the end of time. Too, Mannerism, a minor movement most often associated with nobles or royalty, is often characterized by the distortion of elements such as proportion and space, yet in the piece above, Vertumnus by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, we come to understand that some carried this wonderful distortion theme even further, thus establishing a wider berth also involving comic relief during this otherwise slightly attended era. As for the painting shown and its artist, Arcimboldo, he created a light-hearted "jester series" of 16 similar works over 25 years, various of which also which substituted some of these same food groups as facial features. The portrait is of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, whom the artist served; that artist also had a relationship with the king, in which he secured his own display of wit.
This video from the Budapest Fine Arts Museum discusses the work of another famous Mannerist painter, El Greco. Art, at this point, began turning away from expressing more Classical consideration of forms, toward a more dramatic and sensory viewing experience. The narrator makes the point here that in this Gethsemane prayer scene, also described in Matthew 26, the artist uses unnatural coloration, as well as dramatic juxtaposition and contrasted placement of figure groups to accentuate Jesus' stress and anxiety over that of the slumbering disciples, especially in the foreknowledge of the horrific events of the next day which would claim his life.
Was a widely celebrated art movement which lasted for more than a century.
Featured a Classical or logically-ordered sense of value in its visual statement.
Was a lesser art movement of distortion, recognized mainly by nobles or royalty.
This video, a rare find, discusses an idiosyncratic "art space" called La Scarzuola. It was put together in the 1950's and blends similar elements found in various, dramatic art movements highlighting on "Surrealist architecture Neo-Mannerist elements." (Great Big Story 1) The architect, Tomaso Buzzi, creator of the castle with its seven outdoor theaters, had a notion that "The ideal life is symbolically theatrical." His effort, La Scarzuola, lives on as his autobiographical work, a fantastic consideration of what he thought Mannerism might look like, according to its proponents, in the current day.
What instruments do you hear here? Explain how they work together. How may the simple, classic quality of this music underscore or support the Renaissance era?
Michelangelo's Last Judgement rethinks the traditional take on this final, supernatural/human event. Up to this point, paintings on this subject centered on God's role as Creator and judge, within an ordered universe. Michelangelo, however, introduces us to chaos through a swirl of bodies. Here, the artist divides up the frame into two regions: a celestial and a terrestrial zone. The later is a place of resurrection -- both of the saved and of the damned; the former is a place of Christ, surrounded by the heroes and other icons of the faith. This is an explosive and exaggerated view, not an hierarchical effort. There is little in the way of perspective, except for a sense of overlapping, and no frame for the work. Two lunettes at the top of the painting give various pieces of symbolic information. There are trumpeting angels which herald Jesus' coming and his mother stands with him, as well, in a stance that seems to signal that judgement is nigh. The resurrected elect join the Christ while those who were not his are descending into hell.
This work is also thought to have political connotation in reference to the sacking of Rome in 1527 by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. Rome's decadence had arisen in the nostrils of this protectorate/king as a stench which needed cleansing. The painting was seen by some to convey mood of penitence, although this was less obvious in the hearts of the Pope and of Rome's citizenry.
Michelangelo's Last Judgement...
Includes overlapping but little else in the way of perspective.
Offers a traditional look, for the time in which it was created, at the topic of final judgement.
Contains three lunettes.
The Pieta by Michelangelo Buonarroti, shows the grief of Jesus' mother Mary, she who had given her son, the only begotten son of God, as the savior for mankind. Yet, in the relationship of Mary's uneven physical scale to her son (her lap expanding larger than natural proportion would allow), a fact masterfully hidden by the sculptor, one may also see traces of Michelangelo's later Mannerist style, a technique which the artist would employ toward the end of his life. Mannerism also heralded the Baroque, a dramatic effort to depart from a logical and harmonious Greek Classical style adopted by the Italians during the Renaissance.
The antique Classical Greek forms, revisited by the Italians, influenced the Renaissance for a long season. But everything has its end and it the effort to react against something, we often note in history where an opposite view forces the "pendulum" of opinion to the other extreme (for however light or severe it may actually be.) Classical Greece had much to offer in terms well-ordered art form, from the Parthenon to Polykleitos' Doryphoros and many more. At the end of the Greek Classical era, we find the longer, Hellenistic period which will take us into the current era (CE.) The statue of Laocoön and His Sons, also called the Laocoön Group and demonstrates a late Hellenistic reaction against classical form. It is one of chaos and strong emotion and together with the Classical era, it produces something of a similar pattern (classical / antithesis) to the pattern shown in, say, comparing the work of the high Renaissance to Mannerism.
This video, brought to us by the curator of London's Royal Academy of the Arts, Per Rumberg, considers three of the Great Venetian Renaissance painters: Giovanni Bellini, Giorgio da Castelfranco (also known as Giorgione) and Titian (also known as Tiziano Vecelli.) It traces their times and accomplishments through their important works. Venice had been an important city in the 14th Century C.E., with trade ties to Constantinople. After Constantinople's fall in 1453, however, Venice struggled, eventually establishing contacts with Northern Europe. Venice is the place where artists first discovered the luminous qualities of oil paint, made famous in the luscious, vibrant works of many artists who lived and worked there.
In Michelangelo's Pieta --
Mannerism fully replaces Classical order and harmony.
We see the Resurrected Christ in Mary's arms.
Her lap is longer or bigger than we perceive it to be.
The video below regarding Giambologna's The Rape of the Sabine Women, tells the remarkable story about how the sculptor carved this complex, intertwining work from one block of marble. Delving into the details, we learn further, that a large model was first made, from which the finished work was copied. The sculptor was born as Jean Boulogne.
This is the actual work (below) as described by the video, above. The story of the rape of the Sabine Women comes to us from ancient Roman times in which Roman men planned to lure in the Sabines to steal their women, in order to make them their wives. Fighting ensued in many quarters and eventually, the Sabines united with the Romans to form one nation.
This is the actual work (below) as described by the video, above. The story of the rape or abduction of the Sabine Women comes to us from ancient Roman mythology in which Roman men planned a festival to lure in the Sabines to steal their women in order to make them wives. Fighting ensued in many quarters and eventually, the Sabines united with the Romans to form one nation.
The marble statue is nearly 13 1/2 feet tall and depicts three figures, made from one block. It uses exaggerated gestures, tight vertical drama and a greater than 360° field of action to invoke an intense sense of energy; this, a primary characteristic of Mannerist expression. The work was carved over a four-year period, from 1579 to 1583 and is housed at Loggia dei Lanzi, just outside of the Palazzo Vecchio, in Florence, Italy.
The primary, Roman figure standing in the middle of the nude group is tasked with two jobs: the abduction of the woman he holds over him and the defeat of her husband, who cowers under him. the distressed Sabine man crouches on a rock, elevating him only slightly from the ground. His right hand, fingers open wide, is held to his forehead, while his twist and upward gaze anticipates the action going on above him. The Roman perpetrator is positioned as straddling the Sabine man and the dynamic action continues as the Roman twists his body and contorts his neck and head to look up and over at the Sabine woman. For her part, she is locked in the Romans' arms, yet with flailing arms and a helpless look.
Musculature and pleasing form is well developed in this work and hair is detailed immaculately in the case for each figure. drama is heightened and while controversy continues over the depiction of such an incident, no one questions the abilities of this master storyteller in stone.
The exaggerated gestures, tight vertical drama and a greater than 360° field of action of the sculpture, Rape of the Sabine Women is also characterized in one of the highlighted tips in the paragraph as --
A twisting figura serpentinata, with no frontal view.
A reuniting effort between the Sabines and the Romans to form one nation.
The defeat of the Sabine Woman's husband.
St. Peters Basilica in Rome, Italy, has been in place as a church structure for a very long time in one form or the other. The original basilica dates back to the 4th Century C.E. and was commissioned by the pro-Christian Emperor Constantine. The apostle Peter is said to be buried there, along with many Christian martyrs. Over the millennium that followed the original basilica's construction, it became home to the popes, until the times of the Avignon Schism, when the popes were moved to France for some 70 years and the building fell into disrepair. The present place of worship was begun in the time of the Renaissance but it was not completed until the Baroque was fully in swing, some 120 years later. Its architects included: Donato Bramante (see his original effort below), Michelangelo Buonarroti, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, with more than 20 popes overseeing the operation effort over time, ranging from Pope Nicholas V to Pope Innocent X. The church building program was primarily financed through sale of indulgences, a method of granting a kind of "get out of hell, free" card to contributors who gave money to the church. This also became a major source of contention for Martin Luther, a German priest and reformer who argued his displeasure in his 95 theses, which he posted on the door of the Wittenberg Castle church in 1517. Eventually, the 95 theses helped spawn the Reformation and the Protestant Church. The sale of Indulgences is still practiced by the Catholic church till this day.
The new St. Peter's Basilica...
Replaced the old basilica which dates back to the 3rd century C.E.
Was commissioned or begun by Pope innocent X.
Had at least four architects who built it over the span of 120 years.
The Palazzo del ti Mantova is a Mannerist-styled palace created by Giulio Romano in the suburbs of Mantua, Italy. It was built between 1524–34 for Federico II Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua, as a leisurly villa, next to the family stables. The effort consists of a square house built around a cloistered courtyard. Nearly every wall is decorated in some way. When the Emperor Charles V saw it, he elevated Federico from Marquess to Duke of Mantua.
Barnes, Bernadine. "Mannerism." Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2001. © 1993-2000 Microsoft Corporation. Web. www.csus.edu/indiv/c/craftg/hrs134/mannerism.doc . Accessed 4 August, 2017.
Tucker, Abigail. Arcimboldo’s Feast for the Eyes. Smithsonian Magazine. January 2011. Web. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/arcimboldos-feast-for-the-eyes-74732989/ Accessed 6 August, 2017.
Staff. Last Judgment Fresco by Michelangelo: Interpretation, Meaning of Sistine Chapel Religious Mural. Encyclopedia of Art Education. 2017. Web. http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/famous-paintings/last-judgment-fresco.htm . Accessed 6 August, 2017.
Harris, Beth and Zucker, Steven. Polykleitos, Doryphoros (Spear Bearer.) Khan Academy. 2017. Web. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ancient-art-civilizations/greek-art/classical/v/polykleitos-doryphoros-spear-bearer . Accessed 6 August, 2017.
Staff. Laocoön. Vatican Museum. 2017. Web. http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/collezioni/musei/museo-pio-clementino/Cortile-Ottagono/laocoonte.html . Accessed 6 August, 2017.
Hasler, Cav. Eugenio. Saint Peter's Basilica. Home Page of Vatican City State. 2007-2017. Web. http://www.vaticanstate.va/content/vaticanstate/en/monumenti/basilica-di-s-pietro/storia.paginate.1.html . Accessed 6 August, 2017.
 Music courtesy of Early Music Midi under CC Agreement