Artistic style that predominated in Italy from the end of the High Renaissance in the 1520s to the beginnings of the Baroque period c. 1590. Mannerism originated in Florence and Rome but ultimately spread as far as central and northern Europe. A reaction to the harmonious Classicism and idealized naturalism of High Renaissance art, Mannerism was concerned with solving intricate artistic problems, such as portraying nudes in complex poses. The figures in Mannerist works frequently have graceful but queerly elongated limbs, small heads, and stylized facial features, while their poses seem difficult or contrived. The deep, linear perspectival space of High Renaissance painting is flattened and obscured so that the figures appear as a decorative arrangement of forms in front of a flat background of indeterminate dimensions. Mannerists sought a continuous refinement of form and concept, pushing exaggeration and contrast to great limits. After being superseded by the Baroque style, it was seen as decadent and degenerative. By the 20th century it was appreciated anew for its technical bravura and elegance. Major artists who practiced the style include Parmigianino, Federico Zuccaro, and Il Bronzino.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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