a history of western art

from the renaissance to the present

Michelangelo, The Last Judgment, Italian Mannerism, c. 1540

Parmigianino, Madonna with the Long Neck, Italian Mannerism, c. 1540 -- this work will not be on the exam

Pontormo, The Entombment, Italian Mannerism, c. 1530 -- this work will not be on the exam

the late renaissance - revised 2/8/2019

Since my other section of this class got cancelled for the Superbowl parade, I compressed this topic in both sections.  This is what you will be responsible for on the exam.

people, terms, and concepts:  Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformation

The so-called ‘Mannerist’ or Late Renaissance style is somewhat odd and difficult to account for.  Starting around 1520 the stable, naturalistic, confident, and idealized art of the Renaissance is rejected all across Europe in favor of an unstable, distorted, artificial, and frequently anxious style. For example, in the Pontormo and Parmigianino below we see tortured, twisted poses; scattered, unbalanced compositions; poorly-defined space, frequently with figures jammed up against the picture plane; awkward proportions, like elongated bodies or massive torsos; anguished facial expressions; scattered gestures and unharmonious groupings; lack of coherent light and consistent gravity; unnatural, strident colors; and so on. Even Michelangelo seems to have been affected:  how does attitude towards the human body, life on earth, and the relationship between humankind and God change between the Sistine Ceiling and the Last Judgment?

The reason(s) for this shift in style and attitude are not entirely clear, but many scholars consider it to be related a conservative religious backlash against the Renaissance that eventually culminated in the Protestant Reformation.  With his Ninety-five Theses of 1517, Martin Luther attempted to reform the Catholic church of corruption (including the selling of ‘indulgences’ and the saying of masses for the dead, for example, both of which Luther saw as ways of making money rather than saving souls). When the Catholic church rejected Luther's reforms, he and other reformers started their own Protestant churches (Lutheranism, Calvinism, Anglicanism, and so on). The religious controversy and wars between Protestants and Catholics caused enormous social, economic, and spiritual angst that can be seen as contributing to the anxiety and pictorial instability of much Mannerist art.

Since we were going kind of quickly, here are some supplementary links to reinforce these concepts:

Michelangelo, The Last Judgment


The Protestant Revormation


Finally, these two works (the Pontormo and Parmigianino) won't be on the exam, but here are some links to help reinforce how odd Late Renaissance art is -- note all of the ways it seems to reject or undermine what the Renaisssance worked so hard to achieve.

Pontormo, Entombment


Parmigianino, Madonna of the Long Neck