AskDefine | Define mannerism

Dictionary Definition



1 a behavioral attribute that is distinctive and peculiar to an individual [syn: idiosyncrasy, foible]
2 a deliberate pretense or exaggerated display [syn: affectation, pose, affectedness]

User Contributed Dictionary



From the Italian word manierismo, derived from maniera.


  1. In the artistic literature, a term coined by L. Lanzi at the end of the XVIII century to designate the ostentatious but innatural style of a pictorial current of the second half of the sixteenth century. In the contemporary criticism, the same current, understood as negation of the classicistic equilibrium and as search of a prebaroque, deforming expressivity; the analogue tendency present in the literature of the same age.
  2. In the field of figurative arts and of literature, every tendency that is inspired by previous models, aiming to the artificially varied reproduction of their expressive language.
  3. A group of dissociated, innatural, affected verbal and mimic behaviours that, in heavy form, are characteristic symptoms of schizophrenic states.


Extensive Definition

Mannerism is a period of European painting, sculpture, architecture and decorative arts lasting from the later years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520 until the arrival of the Baroque around 1600. Stylistically, it identifies a variety of individual approaches influenced by, and reacting to, the harmonious ideals associated with Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and early Michelangelo. In contrast, Mannerism is notable for its intellectual sophistication as well as its artificial (as opposed to naturalistic) qualities. The definition of Mannerism, and the phases within it, continue to be the subject of debate among art historians.
The term is also applied to some Late Gothic painters working in northern Europe from about 1500 to 1530, especially the Antwerp Mannerists and some currents of seventeenth-century literature, especially poetry.


The word derives from the Italian maniera, or "style," which corresponds to an artist's characteristic "touch" or recognizable "manner". Artificiality, as opposed to Renaissance and Baroque naturalism, provides one of the common features of mannerist art. The lasting influence of the Italian Renaissance, as transformed by succeeding generations of artists, is another. The root of the term arose when Giorgio Vasari used the term ‘maniera greca’ to refer to the Byzantine style art, and he simply referred to maniera of Michelangelo.
As a stylistic label, "Mannerism" is not easily pigeonholed. It was first popularized by German art historians in the early twentieth-century to categorize the seemingly uncategorizable art of the Italian sixteenth century—art that was no longer perceived to exhibit the harmonious and rational approaches associated with the High Renaissance.
The term is applied differently to a variety of different artists and styles. John Shearman, who championed the "stylish style" definition of Mannerism, defines it as characterized by an "exquisite and eye-catching display of artistic virtuosity, often eliding or occluding any further purpose" and places "the relevant artistic production in relation to the specific cultural milieu, that of the ultra-refined, hothouse court culture emerging in various sites in the early sixteenth century, marked by confident attitudes on the part of patrons and artists alike."


The early Mannerists—especially Jacopo da Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino in Florence, Raphael's student in Rome Giulio Romano and Parmigianino in Parma—are notable for elongated forms, exaggerated, out-of-balance poses, manipulated irrational space, and unnatural lighting. These artists matured under the influence of the High Renaissance, and their style has been characterized as a reaction or exaggerated extension of it. Therefore, this style is often identified as "anti-classical" mannerism.


Subsequent mannerists stressed intellectual conceits and artistic ability, features that led early critics to accuse them of working in an unnatural and affected "manner" (maniera). These artists held their elder contemporary Michelangelo as their prime example. Giorgio Vasari, as artist and architect, exemplifies this strain of Mannerism lasting from about 1530 to 1580. Based largely at courts and in intellectual circles around Europe, it is often called the "stylish" style or the Maniera.


After 1580 in Italy, a new generation of artists, including the Carracci, Caravaggio and Cigoli, reemphasized naturalism. Walter Friedlaender identified this period as "anti-mannerism", just as the early mannerists were "anti-classical" in their reaction to the High Renaissance. Outside of Italy, however, mannerism continued into the seventeenth century. In France it is known as the Henry II style and it had a particular impact on architecture. Important centers include the court of Rudolf II in Prague, as well as Haarlem and Antwerp.
Mannerism as a stylistic category is less frequently applied to English visual and decorative arts, where local categories such as "Elizabethan" and "Jacobean" are more common. Eighteenth-century Artisan Mannerism is one exception.
Historically regarded, Mannerism is a useful designation for sixteenth-century art that emphasizes artificiality over naturalism whilst reflecting the growing self-consciousness of the artist.


Mannerism arose in the early 1500s alongside a number of other social, scientific, religious and political movements such as the Copernican model, the Sack of Rome, and the Protestant Reformation's increasing challenge to the power of the Catholic church. Because of this, the style's elongated forms and distorted forms have been often been interpreted as a reaction to the idealized compositions prevalent in High Renaissance art. speculations of philosophy when he should engage their hearts and entertain them with the softnesses of love" (italics added).
The word Mannerism has also been used to describe the style of highly florid and contrapuntally complex polyphonic music made in France in the late 14th century. This period is now usually referred to as the ars subtilior.



  • Friedländer, Walter. Mannerism and Anti-Mannerism in Italian Painting, (originally in German, first edition in English, 1957, Columbia) 1965, Schocken, New York, LOC 578295
  • John Shearman, 1967. Mannerism A classic summation.

Further reading

  • Freedburg, Sidney J.. Painting in Italy, 1500-1600, 3rd edn. 1993, Yale, ISBN 0300055870
  • Smyth, Craig Hugh. Mannerism and Maniera, 1992, IRSA, Vienna, ISBN 3900731330
  • Franzsepp Würtenberger, 1963. Mannerism: The European Style of the Sixteenth Century (Originally published in German, 1962).
  • Giuliano Briganti, 1962. Italian Mannerism (Originally published in Italian, 1961).
  • Wylie Sypher, Four Stages of Renaissance Style: Transformations in Art and Literature, 1400-1700, 1955. A classic analysis of Renaissance, Mannerism, Baroque, and Late Baroque.
  • Helen Gardner, Metaphysical Poets, Selected and Edited. Introduction.
  • Liana de Girolami Cheney, ed, Readings in Italian Mannerism, with foreword by Craig Hugh Smyth (New York: Peter Lang, 1997,2004)
mannerism in Tosk Albanian: Manierismus
mannerism in Breton: Orbidouriezh
mannerism in Bulgarian: Маниеризъм
mannerism in Catalan: Manierisme
mannerism in Czech: Manýrismus
mannerism in Danish: Manierisme
mannerism in German: Manierismus
mannerism in Modern Greek (1453-): Μανιερισμός
mannerism in Spanish: Manierismo
mannerism in Esperanto: Manierismo
mannerism in French: Maniérisme
mannerism in Galician: Manierismo
mannerism in Korean: 매너리즘
mannerism in Croatian: Manirizam
mannerism in Indonesian: Mannerisme
mannerism in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Manierismo
mannerism in Italian: Manierismo
mannerism in Hebrew: מנייריזם
mannerism in Georgian: მანიერიზმი
mannerism in Hungarian: Manierizmus (művészet)
mannerism in Dutch: Maniërisme
mannerism in Japanese: マニエリスム
mannerism in Norwegian: Manierismen
mannerism in Norwegian Nynorsk: Manierismen
mannerism in Polish: Manieryzm (sztuka)
mannerism in Portuguese: Maneirismo
mannerism in Romanian: Manierism
mannerism in Russian: Маньеризм
mannerism in Sicilian: Manera
mannerism in Slovak: Manierizmus
mannerism in Slovenian: Manierizem
mannerism in Serbian: Маниризам
mannerism in Serbo-Croatian: Manirizam
mannerism in Finnish: Manierismi
mannerism in Swedish: Manierism
mannerism in Thai: ลัทธิแมนเนอริสม์
mannerism in Chinese: 風格主義

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Gongorism, affectation, affectedness, airs, airs and graces, aroma, artfulness, artifice, artificiality, attribute, badge, brand, cachet, cast, character, characteristic, command of language, configuration, cut, differentia, differential, distinctive feature, earmark, eccentricity, euphemism, euphuism, exaggeration, expression of ideas, facade, false front, false show, fashion, feature, feeling for words, feigned belief, figure, flavor, form of speech, front, grace of expression, grandiloquence, gust, habit, hallmark, hyperelegance, hypocrisy, idiocrasy, idiosyncrasy, image, impress, impression, index, individualism, inflation, insincerity, keynote, lineaments, literary style, lugs, manner, manner of speaking, manneredness, mark, marking, mere show, minauderie, mode, mode of expression, mold, nature, oddness, odor, overelaboration, overelegance, overniceness, overrefinement, particularity, peculiar trait, peculiarity, personal style, preciosity, preciousness, pretense, pretension, pretentiousness, property, prunes and prisms, public image, purism, put-on, putting on airs, quality, queerness, quirk, rhetoric, savor, seal, sense of language, sham, shape, show, singularity, smack, specialty, stamp, strain, style, stylishness, stylistic analysis, stylistics, taint, tang, taste, the grand style, the plain style, the sublime, token, trademark, trait, trick, trick of behavior, unnaturalness, vein, way
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