Tag: Mannerism

Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527 – 1593)

It’s summer; fruits and veggies galore! So, let’s speak about Giuseppe Arcimboldo, an Italian painter who spent his whole career at the Habsburg court, in Vienna for Emperor Maximilian II and later in Prague for Rudolph II. Arcimboldo was highly successful during his lifetime, but soon forgotten after his death. Only in the 1930s Arcimboldo got rediscovered. About 20 of his paintings remain and those 20 are quite something! A genius with an absolutely unique imagination, Arcimboldo combined fruits, plants and vegetables into allegorical portraits. Here is “Summer”, from one of his “Four Seasons” series, displaying a summer abundance of fruits and vegetables. Arcimboldo’s signature and the date of the painting are woven into the straw coat.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527 – 1593), “Summer” (1563), 67x51cm, Oil on Wood, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

The Habsburg Court encouraged the study of art, nature and science. They not only collected works of art, but also established botanical and zoological gardens. Arcimboldo created a portrait of Emperor Rudolph II as “Vertumnus” the God of the Four Seasons, Gardens and Fruits. And of course Rudolph, who had a sense of humor indeed, loved to show off with this portrait as a symbol of the agricultural richness of his empire. Now the painting is on view in Skokloster Castle in Sweden. In 1648 the Swedish army took it with them after joining the Thirty Year’s War and having looted the castle in Prague.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527 – 1593), “Emperor Rudolf II as Vertumnus, the Roman God of the Seasons”, c1590, 70x58cm, Oil on Canvas, Skokloster Castle, Sweden.

Arcimboldo had another trick. Some of his painting can be turned upside-down. Look at this basket of fruits, a painting from 1590. Reverse it and it’s the smiling face of the gardener himself. What a wonderful and witty way to paint the wealth of summer. Current whereabouts of the painting unknown, latest at French & Company art gallery, New York.

Mannerism

Bronzino (1503 – 1572), “An Allegory with Venus and Cupid” (1545), 146x116cm, Oil on Wood, The National Gallery, London.

Mannerism is a European art style that follows Renaissance and precedes Baroque, originating in Italy around 1520 and spreading over Europe. Mannerism lasted until the end of the 16th Century, when Mannerism gradually turned into the Baroque style.

How did Mannerism originate and what is it all about? The artists from the Renaissance, like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, excelled in painting and sculpting ideal beauty, balanced proportions and ultimate elegance. Their art had reached the top of what could be achieved; Renaissance was considered the peak of perfection. That gave the next generation of artists a feeling that they had not much to add anymore, and therefor they started to search for additional artistry on top of the Renaissance skills and values. This next generation started to add wisdom and intelligence to their art. And that resulted in a “manner” of over-sophisticated elegance. Mannerism is more about artificial and intellectual beauty than the perfect natural beauty from the Renaissance times.

The word “Mannerism” comes from the Italian word “maniera”, meaning “manner”. The Mannerist painters were painting in the “manner” of Renaissance painters like Michelangelo, but topped it up with their own intellectual and sophisticated inventions. One could say that they overdid it a bit. The mannerist artists tried to exceed Renaissance art, but that resulted in an overcomplicated way of depicting nature. And ultimately that was followed by the even more complex manner of depicting beauty during the Baroque.

Look at Bronzino’s “An Allegory with Venus and Cupid” (1545). It’s an almost bizarre composition and an exaggerated anatomy of figures. It reminds us of Michelangelo, but with an over-the-top approach of beauty. And the meaning behind this painting is so over-intellectual, that one hardly understands what it is about. It’s passion and play, time and despair, love and seduction; with every figure having it’s own symbolic meaning and art historians nowadays in doubt of the actual meaning. Or look at the Virgin Mary with Child (1540) by Parmigianino. In his efforts to create more elegance, Parmigianino gave his figures those long stretched bodies. And ironically, the painting is now just known as “The Madonna with the Long Neck”. Both Bronzino and Parmigianino want to express that there is more to achieve than the old-fashioned way of traditional Renaissance painting. They show the viewer their new “manner” of dealing with art and beauty. Mannerist painters proudly created Modern Art in the 16th Century.

Parmigianino (1503 – 1540), “The Madonna with the Long Neck” (c. 1537), 216x132cm, Oil on Wood, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

Pontormo (1494 – 1557)

Pontormo (1494 – 1557), “Visitation of the Virgin and Saint Elizabeth” (1528), Oil on Board”, 202x156cm, Church of San Michele e San Francesco, Carmignano, Italy.

On the 24th of May, 1494, birth of Jacopo Carucci da Pontormo, simply known as Pontormo. He is famous for his Mannerist way of painting, with figures in a floating, almost dancing, manner. Pontormo painted in and around Florence, often supported by the Medici family. Here is Pontormo’s “Visitation of the Virgin and Saint Elizabeth”, housed in the church of San Francesco e Michele in Carmignano, about 20 km west of Florence. The Visitation is the visit of the Virgin Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus, to Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist, (Luke 1:39–56).

Pontormo’s work was quite out of fashion for several centuries. Though he has received renewed attention by contemporary art historians. Indeed, in 2002, Pontormo’s “Portrait of a Halberdier” was the world’s most expensive painting by an Old Master. The Halberdier holds a halberd, a combination of spear and battle-axe. The sitter’s identity has been much discussed. It could be the young nobleman Francesco Guardi at the age of around fifteen. But it has also been suggested that the portrait represents Cosimo de’ Medici himself.

Pontormo (1494 – 1557), “Portrait of a Halberdier (Francesco Guardi?)” (1529), Oil on Panel transferred to Canvas, 95x73cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Pontormo’s closest pupil was Bronzino, who followed Pontormo’s style. Of several paintings it’s disputed if the author is Pontormo or Bronzino.