A beginner's guide to Mannerism
Mannerism is a confusing term, subject to radically different interpretations but generally used to describe the art in Italy which directly succeeded that of the Renaissance and preceded the Baroque. Its first widespread use, in the 17th century, was pejorative, implying an over-elaborate distortion, an imbalance, and a neurosis first discerned in the later work of Michelangelo and in the followers of Raphael.
Although ‘Mannerism’ is mainly applied to Italian art, there was also ‘Northern Mannerism,’ used to describe the work of north European artists such as Goltzius, Uytewael, and Spranger active in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, whose twisting, intricate compositions reached a large audience through the highly accomplished prints made after them by printmakers such as Müller and Sadeler. Many of these artists worked from the 1580s onwards for the Emperor Rudolf II at his court in Prague.