Bronzino represents the Florentine mannerist style (he may be considered as Mannerism 101). No one is absolutely sure what it is about. He was an artist, but also a poet, and working in the court of Cosimo di Medici. Going back to the stylistic characteristics of Mannerism there are:
- contorted bodies
- confrontational foreshortening
- very full covered surfaces
- very erotic: when purchased in 1861 by the National Gallery they were scared to put it on show (even though it had already been partly covered)! They decided against sending it to Scotland (the fate of another painting deemed too erotic) and for changing it slightly by removing a nipple and tongue. These changes, plus the shrubbery previously added, have now been removed
In this painting we can see a mother and a son in an erotic embrace. We can also see a boy dancing with bells and roses, but has also just stepped on a thorn. Also, the girl has a honeycomb in one hand (sweet), but a very nasty ‘stink; in the other; she is part reptile, indicating that if you want honey you also get the stink and the sting. This emphasis the twisted mannerist and courtly poses typically of the period. The girl may be representing deceit.
Only figure we are sure who it is is Father Time. Possibly also the figure at the top left is Oblivion, having no brain. The problem with iconography of the time is that there is no ‘guideline of iconography at the time, so you need to compare to other paintings of the time as this is how ideas came.
There is also a figure in the shadows, but Venus has taken Cupid’s arrow and is painting it at him. This figure may be representing jealousy. However, ‘gelosija’ is a feminine word, but the person appears male (figures were male/female depending on the gender of the word). It could be that the figure is suffering from mercury poisoning, which was given as a treatment for syphilis, so painting could be about the pleasures and pain of love, either specific to sec or more general.
This painting was painted for Cosimo di Medici to give as a diplomatic gift to France. However, when French invaded Italy they were the ones to bring syphilis with them through Italy! It could be that this was his way of commenting about this issue, and the French could then reply, possibly in a painting.
Giambologna was an artist sculpting very much in the mannerist style in the Medici court. In this sculpture, there are five points of balance, but the most ‘scary’ (showing diffikolta) is the cutting of the club. Here also we can see twisting of bodies.
Mannerism is ultimately a courtly style, mainly secular for paintings of the courts, such as Holbein a German in England, and Niccolo del Abate, and Italian in France.
This painting requires quite a good level of knowledge e.g. that this painting is from Virgil’s Georgics Book 4., the view of the world (die landschaff, as it is known to Northerners). There are also reference to other works that you need to known to understand fully. This is typical of the courtly mannerist paintings, requiring the viewer to have a certain level of knowledge to fully appreciate the painting.
Another painter work in the courts was Bartholomeus Spranger, from Antwerp, working for Rudolph II in Vienna, who then moves to the Hapsburg court in Prague. In this painting the kings are posing, paying homage to the Virgin and Child. There is also an idea of space receding far away. Also have the aspect of playfulness with page boys.
The Mannerist style is very much an international style, possibly as, being a style of the courts, it was given as gifts by courts to others.
Here get sense of aspect of space. Also, drapery is depictive more than realistic. Another thing to note is what have become known as ‘Bassano’s bottoms': get idea of figures from the back. Thus we are seeing that the traditional aspects of painting changed and traditional images are now being viewed in different ways.
There are four paintings of Veronese at the National Gallery, possibly representing a set. These were probably painted for Rudolf II of Prague. Veronese was a painter from Verona who went to Venice and painted from Prague.
These paintings could be representing a continuation rather than a contradiction of Renaissance characteristics. There is a better idea of space, particularly if you look at the from below as they should be viewed rather than at eye level: there is believable illusions.
The silvery-grey skies are the result of a cheap blue colour being used. This was made from crushed blue glass, which fades from brilliant blue to grey. Also see a lot of orange and yellow in these (and other Venetian) paintings, as it was them who invented them.
- Scorn – Another Allegory: The man seems to have been worshipping in a temple for lustful gods. There is an erotic but chaste woman (as have ermine, which is a symbol of female chastity). Thus, cupid is angry at man for going for a woman he couldn’t get
- Respect: Man presented with nude sleeping woman. Cupid seems to be urging the man on. The man is looking up at a scene representing Scipio, a conqueror who refused to take women as prizes.
- Happy Union
These show different aspects of love.
This is another Venetian who painted for Rudolf II. Jupiter worries that Hercules, who has a mortal mother, needs to drink from Juno’s breast to become immortal. When he tries it milk spurts up to form the milky way.
These two paintings were painted for Rudolf II. Arcimboldo paints faces using summer and winter fruit the artist is showing off – so much had already been done that you needed to show how you present things differently to stand out.
No one is sure what the point of the painting is, especially as it is a large-scale painting, but person commissioning wouldn’t really be expected to be buying fruit. It could be an issue of high-low, where high people may want to show they know what is going on in the market. The fruits and veg are representative of what was available at the time. In background also have the Bible story of the flight into Egypt, when a farmer led the pursuers the wrong direction. Thus, there is a cleverness: what you see has more levels of depth.
Bruegel was painting at the time of Beuckelaer. The child seems to be shrinking away from the King (the king is presenting myrrh, used for embalming dead, so he could be shrinking away from his future). Faces ot the others are also very much idealised to Northern Characteristics. Some also have spectacles, maybe showing short-sightedness.
Another aspect is the crushing figures, covering most of the painting. Also have elongation of figures. This may be a manneristic characteristic, but it could be an extension of the depictive characteristic of medieval gothic. We are now seeing paintings from same period of Mannerism but which may be challenging that notion.
Not all distortions are an example of ‘maniera’. They could be chowing collapse, etc., but could also be an extension of Northern Traditions of distortion for expressive purposes.
Christ Washing the Feet of the Disciple, Tintoretto
Painting should be viewed from the far left bottom side. Thus Tintoretto worked with the original context: the artist is clever and putting it right for the location.
El Greco travelled up to Venice, where he started as a traditional icon painter, but then becomes more Western.
This painting was made as a report of the Battle of Lepanto, showing the beating back of the threat from the East (the Turks). Here have Philip II of Spain, the Doge of Venice and the Pope, three Catholic people, coming to praise God.
Agony in the Garden, Workshop of El Greco
Disciples are curled, have flickering of light: this is typical of El Greco. This could be a continuation of Byzantine art rather than a rejection of Renaissance (similar to the distortions of Northern Art).
Purity is another aspect of El Greco.