Northern Mannerism

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Bartholomeus Spranger, Hercules, Deianira and Nessus, 1580-85 Bartholomaus Spranger 007.jpg
Bartholomeus Spranger, Hercules, Deianira and Nessus, 1580–85

Northern Mannerism is the form of Mannerism found in the visual arts north of the Alps in the 16th and early 17th centuries. [1] Styles largely derived from Italian Mannerism were found in the Netherlands and elsewhere from around the mid-century, especially Mannerist ornament in architecture; this article concentrates on those times and places where Northern Mannerism generated its most original and distinctive work.

Mannerism style of European art

Mannerism, also known as Late Renaissance, is a style in European art that emerged in the later years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520, spreading by about 1530 and lasting until about the end of the 16th century in Italy, when the Baroque style largely replaced it. Northern Mannerism continued into the early 17th century.

Alps Major mountain range system in Central Europe

The Alps are the highest and most extensive mountain range system that lies entirely in Europe, separating Southern from Central and Western Europe and stretching approximately 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) across eight Alpine countries : France, Switzerland, Monaco, Italy, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, and Slovenia. The mountains were formed over tens of millions of years as the African and Eurasian tectonic plates collided. Extreme shortening caused by the event resulted in marine sedimentary rocks rising by thrusting and folding into high mountain peaks such as Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. Mont Blanc spans the French–Italian border, and at 4,810 m (15,781 ft) is the highest mountain in the Alps. The Alpine region area contains about a hundred peaks higher than 4,000 metres (13,000 ft).


The three main centres of the style were in France, especially in the period 1530–50, in Prague from 1576, and in the Netherlands from the 1580s—the first two phases very much led by royal patronage. In the last 15 years of the century, the style, by then becoming outdated in Italy, was widespread across northern Europe, spread in large part through prints. In painting, it tended to recede rapidly in the new century, under the new influence of Caravaggio and the early Baroque, but in architecture and the decorative arts, its influence was more sustained. [2]

Caravaggio 16th and 17th-century Italian painter

Michelangelo Merisida Caravaggio was an Italian painter active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily from the early 1590s to 1610. His paintings combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, which had a formative influence on Baroque painting.


Stucco overdoor at Fontainebleau, probably designed by Primaticcio, who painted the oval inset Fontainebleau escalier roi.jpg
Stucco overdoor at Fontainebleau, probably designed by Primaticcio, who painted the oval inset

The sophisticated art of Italian Mannerism begins during the High Renaissance of the 1520s as a development of, a reaction against, and an attempt to excel, the serenely balanced triumphs of that style. As art historian Henri Zerner explains: "The concept of Mannerism—so important to modern criticism and notably to the renewed taste for Fontainebleau art—designates a style in opposition to the classicism of the Italian Renaissance embodied above all by Andrea del Sarto in Florence and Raphael in Rome". [3]

High Renaissance art movement

In art history, the High Renaissance is a short period of the most exceptional artistic production in the Italian states, particularly Rome, capital of the Papal States, and in Florence, during the Italian Renaissance. Most art historians state that the High Renaissance started around 1495 or 1500 and ended in 1520 with the death of Raphael, although some say the High Renaissance ended about 1525, or in 1527 with the Sack of Rome by the army of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, or about 1530. The best-known exponents of painting, sculpture and architecture of the High Renaissance include Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Bramante. In recent years, the use of the term has been frequently criticized by some academic art historians for oversimplifying artistic developments, ignoring historical context, and focusing only on a few iconic works.

Andrea del Sarto Italian painter

Andrea del Sarto was an Italian painter from Florence, whose career flourished during the High Renaissance and early Mannerism. Though highly regarded during his lifetime as an artist senza errori, his renown was eclipsed after his death by that of his contemporaries, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.

Raphael 16th-century Italian painter and architect

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, known as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form, ease of composition, and visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period.

The High Renaissance was a purely Italian phenomenon, and Italian Mannerism required both artists and an audience highly trained in the preceding Renaissance styles, whose conventions were often flouted in a knowing fashion. In Northern Europe, however, such artists, and such an audience, could hardly be found. The prevailing style remained Gothic, and different syntheses of this and Italian styles were made in the first decades of the 16th century by more internationally aware artists such as Albrecht Dürer, Hans Burgkmair and others in Germany, and the misleadingly named school of Antwerp Mannerism, in fact unrelated to, and preceding, Italian Mannerism. [4] Romanism was more thoroughly influenced by Italian art of the High Renaissance, and aspects of Mannerism, and many of its leading exponents had travelled to Italy. Netherlandish painting had been generally the most advanced in northern Europe since before 1400, and the best Netherlandish artists were better able than those of other regions to keep up with Italian developments, though lagging at a distance.

Gothic art Style of Medieval art developed in Northern France

Gothic art was a style of medieval art that developed in Northern France out of Romanesque art in the 12th century AD, led by the concurrent development of Gothic architecture. It spread to all of Western Europe, and much of Southern and Central Europe, never quite effacing more classical styles in Italy. In the late 14th century, the sophisticated court style of International Gothic developed, which continued to evolve until the late 15th century. In many areas, especially Germany, Late Gothic art continued well into the 16th century, before being subsumed into Renaissance art. Primary media in the Gothic period included sculpture, panel painting, stained glass, fresco and illuminated manuscripts. The easily recognizable shifts in architecture from Romanesque to Gothic, and Gothic to Renaissance styles, are typically used to define the periods in art in all media, although in many ways figurative art developed at a different pace.

Albrecht Dürer German Renaissance artist

Albrecht Dürer sometimes spelt in English as Durer or Duerer, without umlaut, was a painter, printmaker, and theorist of the German Renaissance. Born in Nuremberg, Dürer established his reputation and influence across Europe when he was still in his twenties due to his high-quality woodcut prints. He was in communication with the major Italian artists of his time, including Raphael, Giovanni Bellini and Leonardo da Vinci, and from 1512 he was patronized by Emperor Maximilian I. Dürer is commemorated by both the Lutheran and Episcopal Churches.

Hans Burgkmair German painter

Hans Burgkmair the Elder (1473–1531) was a German painter and woodcut printmaker.

For each succeeding generations of artists, the problem became more acute, as much Northern work continued to gradually assimilate aspects of Renaissance style, while the most advanced Italian art had spiralled into an atmosphere of self-conscious sophistication and complexity that must have seemed a world apart to Northern patrons and artists, but enjoyed a reputation and prestige that could not be ignored. [5]


Diana the Huntress, School of Fontainebleau Diana the Huntress - School of Fontainebleau, attributed to Luca Penni.jpg
Diana the Huntress , School of Fontainebleau

France received a direct injection of Italian style in the form of the first School of Fontainebleau, where from 1530 several Florentine artists of quality were hired to decorate the royal palace of Fontainebleau, with some French assistants being taken on. The most notable imports were Rosso Fiorentino (Giovanni Battista di Jacopo de' Rossi, 1494–1540), Francesco Primaticcio (c. 1505–1570), Niccolò dell'Abbate (c. 1509–1571), all of whom remained in France until their deaths. This conjunction succeeded in generating a native French style with strong Mannerist elements that was then able to develop largely on its own. Jean Cousin the Elder, for example, produced paintings, such as Eva Prima Pandora and Charity, that, with their sinuous, elongated nudes, drew palpably upon the artistic principles of the Fontainebleau school. [6]

School of Fontainebleau art movement by artists active at Fontainebleau 1530s-1610

The Ecole de Fontainebleau (c.1530–c.1610) refers to two periods of artistic production in France during the late Renaissance centered on the royal Palace of Fontainebleau that were crucial in forming the French version of Northern Mannerism.

Palace of Fontainebleau castle in Fontainebleau, France

The Palace of Fontainebleau or Château de Fontainebleau, located 55 kilometres southeast of the center of Paris, in the commune of Fontainebleau, is one of the largest French royal châteaux. The medieval castle and subsequent palace served as a residence for the French monarchs from Louis VII to Napoleon III. Francis I and Napoleon were the monarchs who had the most influence on the Palace as it stands today.. It is now a national museum and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Rosso Fiorentino Italian painter and engraver

Giovanni Battista di Jacopo, known as Rosso Fiorentino, or Il Rosso, was an Italian Mannerist painter, in oil and fresco, belonging to the Florentine school.

Cousin's son Jean the Younger, most of whose works have not survived, and Antoine Caron both followed in this tradition, producing an agitated version of the Mannerist aesthetic in the context of the French Wars of Religion. The iconography of figurative works was mostly mythological, with a strong emphasis on Diana, goddess of the hunting that was the original function of Fontainebleau, and namesake of Diane de Poitiers, mistress and muse of Henry II, and keen huntress herself. Her slim, long-legged and athletic figure "became fixed in the erotic imaginary". [7]

Other parts of Northern Europe did not have the advantage of such intense contact with Italian artists, but the Mannerist style made its presence felt through prints and illustrated books, the purchases of Italian works by rulers and others, [8] artists' travels to Italy, and the example of individual Italian artists working in the North.

French or Burgundian table in walnut, 2nd half of the 16th century BLW Table.jpg
French or Burgundian table in walnut, 2nd half of the 16th century

Much of the most important work at Fontainebleau was in the form of stucco reliefs, often executed by French artists to drawings by the Italians (and then reproduced in prints), and the Fontainebleau style affected French sculpture more strongly than French painting. The huge stucco frames which dominate their inset paintings with bold high-relief strapwork, swags of fruit, and generous staffage of naked nymph-like figures, were very influential on the vocabulary of Mannerist ornament all over Europe, spread by ornament books and prints by Androuet du Cerceau and others—Rosso seems to have been the originator of the style.

A number of areas in the decorative arts joined in the style, especially where there were customers from the court. High-style walnut furniture made in metropolitan centers like Paris and Dijon, employed strapwork framing and sculptural supports in dressoirs and buffets. The mysterious and sophisticated Saint-Porchaire ware, of which only about sixty pieces survive, brought a similar aesthetic into pottery, and much of it carries royal cyphers. This was followed by the "rustic" pottery of Bernard Palissy, with vessels covered in elaborately modelled relief animals and plants. Painted Limoges enamel adopted the style with enthusiasm around 1540, and many workshops produced highly detailed painting until about the 1580s.

Apart from the Palace of Fontainebleau itself, other important buildings decorated in the style were the Château d'Anet (1547–52) for Diane de Poitiers, and parts of the Palais du Louvre. Catherine de' Medici's patronage of the arts promoted the Mannerist style, except in portraiture, and her court festivities were the only regular northern ones to rival the intermedios and entries of the Medici court in Florence; all of which relied heavily on the visual arts. After an interlude when work on Fontainebleau was abandoned at the height of the French Wars of Religion, a "Second School of Fontainebleau" was formed from local artists in the 1590s.

Prague under Rudolf II

Adriaen de Vries, Mercury and Psyche in life-size bronze, made in 1593 for Rudolf. Devries-mercuriocrop.jpg
Adriaen de Vries, Mercury and Psyche in life-size bronze, made in 1593 for Rudolf.

Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor (reigned 1564–1576), who made his base in Vienna, had humanist and artistic tastes, and patronised a number of artists, mostly famously Giambologna and Giuseppe Arcimboldo, whose fantasy portraits made up of objects were slightly more serious in the world of late-Renaissance philosophy than they seem now. At the end of his reign he devised a project for a new palace and just before he died the young Flemish painter Bartholomeus Spranger had been summoned from Rome, where he had made a successful career. Maximilian's son, Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor was to prove an even better patron than his father would have been, and Spranger never left his service. The court soon transferred to Prague, safer from the regular Turkish invasions, and during his reign of 1576–1612, Rudolf was to become an obsessive collector of old and new art, his artists mixing with the astronomers, clockmakers, botanists, and "wizards, alchemists and kabbalists" whom Rudolf also gathered around him. [9]

Bartholomeus Spranger, Minerva triumphs over Ignorance, 1591, "an astonishing makeover ... [Minerva] never looks as glamourous anywhere else". Bartholomaus Spranger 017.jpg
Bartholomeus Spranger, Minerva triumphs over Ignorance, 1591, "an astonishing makeover ... [Minerva] never looks as glamourous anywhere else".

Rudolf's artistic preferences were for mythological scenes with nudes as well as allegorical propaganda pieces which extolled the virtues of himself as ruler. A work combining the elements of eroticism and propaganda is Minerva triumphs over Ignorance (Kunsthistorisches Museum) which shows Minverva (the Roman goddess of war, wisdom, arts and trade) with exposed breasts and a helmet treading down Ignorance, symbolised by a man with the ears of an ass. Bellona, another Roman goddess of war, and the nine Muses surround Minerva. The propaganda message is that the empire is safe with Rudolf at the helm so that the arts and trade can flourish. [11] The Flemish sculptor Hans Mont also worked for Rudolf and designed the triumphal arch for Rudolf II's formal entry into Vienna in 1576. [12]

Works from Rudolf's Prague were highly finished and refined, with most paintings being relatively small. The elongation of figures and strikingly complex poses of the first wave of Italian Mannerism were continued, and the elegant distance of Bronzino's figures was mediated through the works of the absent Giambologna, who represented the ideal of the style.

Prints were essential to disseminate the style to Europe, Germany and the Low Countries in particular, and some printmakers, like the greatest of the period, Hendrik Goltzius, worked from drawings sent from Prague, while others, like Aegidius Sadeler who lived in Spranger's house, had been tempted to the city itself. Rudolf also commissioned work from Italy, above all from Giambologna, who the Medicis would not allow to leave Florence, and four great mythological allegories were sent by Paolo Veronese. [13] The Emperor's influence affected art in other German courts, notably Munich, and Dresden where the goldsmith and artist Johann Kellerthaler was based.

Rudolf was not very interested in religion, and "in the Prague of Rudolf II, an explosion of mythological imagery was produced that had not been seen since Fontainebleau". [14] Goddesses were usually naked, or nearly so, and a more overt atmosphere of eroticism prevails than is found in most Renaissance mythological works, evidently reflecting Rudolf's "special interests". [15]

The dominating figure was Hercules, identified with the emperor, as he had earlier been with earlier Habsburg and Valois monarchs. [16] But the other gods were not neglected; their conjunctions and transformations had significance in Renaissance Neo-Platonism and Hermeticism that were taken more seriously in Rudolf's Prague than any other Renaissance court. [17] It seems, however, that the painted allegories from Prague contain neither very specific complicated meanings, nor hidden recipes for alchemy. Giambologna frequently chose, or let someone else choose, a title for his sculptures after their completion; for him it was only the forms that mattered. [18]

Influence from Prague elsewhere

Netherlands Mannerism

Abraham Bloemaert, Niobe mourning her children, 1591 Abraham Bloemaert - Niobe beweent haar kinderen.jpg
Abraham Bloemaert, Niobe mourning her children, 1591

Whereas the artists of both Fontainebleau and Prague were mostly provided with a home so congenial in both intellectual and physical terms that they stayed to the end of their lives, for artists of the last Netherlandish phase of the movement Mannerism was very often a phase through which they passed before moving on to a style influenced by Caravaggio.

For Hendrik Goltzius, the greatest printmaker of the day, his most Mannerist phase under the influence of Spranger only lasted for the five years between 1585, when he engraved his first print after one of the Spranger drawings brought from Prague by Karel van Mander, to his trip to Rome in 1590, from which he "returned a changed artist. From this time on he no longer made prints after Spranger's extravaganzas. The monstrous muscle-men and over-elongated female nudes with tiny heads ... were replaced by figures with more normal proportions and movements." [19] Spranger's work "had a wide and immediate effect in the Northern Netherlands", [19] and the group known as the "Haarlem Mannerists", principally Goltzius, van Mander, and Cornelis van Haarlem was matched by artists in other cities.

Joachim Wtewael's elaborate allegory presents itself as a Kitchen Scene with virtuoso passages of still life, 1604 Kitchen interior with the parable of the great supper, by Joachim Wtewael.jpg
Joachim Wtewael's elaborate allegory presents itself as a Kitchen Scene with virtuoso passages of still life, 1604

Partly because most of his Netherlandish followers had only seen Spranger's work through prints and his mostly very free drawings, his more painterly handling was not adopted, and they retained the tighter and more realistic technique in which they had been trained. Many Dutch mannerist painters could switch styles depending on subject or commission, and continued to produce portraits and genre scenes in styles based on local traditions at the same time they were working on highly Mannerist paintings. After his return from Italy Goltzius moved to a quieter proto-Baroque classicism, and his work in that style influenced many.

Joachim Wtewael, who settled in Utrecht after returning from Italy in 1590, drew more influence from Italian Mannerists than from Prague, and also continued to produce kitchen scenes and portraits alongside his naked deities. Unlike many, notably his fellow Utrechter Abraham Bloemaert, once Wtewael's repertoire of styles was formed, he never changed it until his death in 1631. [20]

A less typical, but forward-looking, pure landscape by Roelandt Savery, Forest with deer, 1608-10. Roelandt Savery - Forest with Deer.jpg
A less typical, but forward-looking, pure landscape by Roelandt Savery, Forest with deer, 1608–10.

For painters in the Low Countries there was also the alternative of traditional Northern realist styles, which had continued to develop through Pieter Bruegel the Elder (d.1567) and other artists, and in the next century were to dominate the painting of the Dutch Golden Age. Despite his visit to Italy, Brughel certainly cannot be called a Mannerist, but just as his paintings were keenly collected by Rudolf, Mannerist artists, including Gillis van Coninxloo and Bruegel's son Jan, followed him in developing the landscape as a subject.

Landscape painting was recognised as a Netherlandish speciality in Italy, where several Northern landscapists were based, such as Matthijs and Paul Bril, and the Germans Hans Rottenhammer and Adam Elsheimer, the last an important figure in the Early Baroque. Most still painted Netherlandish panoramas from a high view-point, with small figures forming a specific subject, but Gillis van Coninxloo followed the earlier Danube School and Albrecht Altdorfer in developing the pure and "close-up" forest landscape in his works from about 1600, which was taken up by his pupil Roelandt Savery and others. [21] Bloemaert painted many landscapes reconciling these types by combining close-up trees, with figures, and a small distant view from above to one side (example below). [22] Paul Brill's early landscapes were distinctly Mannerist in their artificiality and crowded decorative effects, but after his brother's death, he gradually evolved a more economical and realistic style, perhaps influenced by Annibale Carracci. [23]

Ambrosius Bosschaert, still-life, 1614 Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (Dutch - Flower Still Life - Google Art Project.jpg
Ambrosius Bosschaert, still-life, 1614

Still-life painting, usually mostly of flowers and insects, also emerged as a genre during the period, re-purposing the inherited tradition of late Netherlandish miniature borders; Jan Brueghel the Elder also painted these. Such subjects appealed to both aristocratic patrons and the bourgeois market, which was far larger in the Netherlands. This was especially so in the Protestant north, after the movement of populations in the Revolt, where the demand for religious works was largely absent. [24]

Joris Hoefnagel, a court painter of Rudolf II, played an important role in the development of the still life as an independent genre, and in particular still lifes of flowers. An undated flower piece executed by Hoefnagel in the form of a miniature is the first known independent still life. Hoefnagel enlivened his flower pieces with insects and attention to detail typical of his nature studies. This can be seen in his 1589 Amoris Monumentum Matri Chariss(imae) (ex-Nicolaas Teeuwisse 2008). [25]

Karel van Mander is now remembered mainly as a writer on art rather than an artist. Though he endorsed the Italian hierarchy of genres, with history painting at the top, he was readier than Vasari and other Italian theorists (above all Michelangelo, who was brusquely dismissive of 'lower' forms of art) to accept the value of other specialized genres of art, and to accept that many artists should specialize in these, if that is where their talent lay. [26] Specialization of many artists in the various genres was well advanced by the end of the century, in both the Netherlands and Prague, exemplified by Bruegel's two sons, Jan and Pieter, though it was also typical of the period that they both had more than one speciality during their careers. Although landscapes, scenes of peasant life, sea-scapes and still lifes could be bought by dealers for stock, and good portraits were always in demand, demand for history painting was not equal to the potential supply, and many artists, like Cornelius Ketel, were forced to specialize in portraiture; "artists travel along this road without delight", according to van Mander. [27]

The Seven Liberal Arts by Marten de Vos, 1590 Marten de Vos Seven liberal arts.jpg
The Seven Liberal Arts by Marten de Vos, 1590

The Mannerist painters in the now permanently separated southern provinces of Habsburg Flanders in fact were less influenced by Prague than those in the United Provinces. They had more easy access to Italy, where Denis Calvaert lived from the age of twenty in Bologna, though selling much of his work back to Flanders. Both Marten de Vos and Otto van Veen had travelled there; Van Veen, who had actually worked in Rudolf's Prague, was the founder of the Guild of Romanists, an Antwerp club for artists who had visited Rome. They were more conscious of recent trends in Italian art, and the emergence of Baroque style, which in the hands of Van Veen's pupil from 1594 to 1598, Rubens, would soon sweep over Flemish art. [28] In religious works, Flemish artists were also subject to the decrees of the Council of Trent, leading to a reaction against the more extreme virtuosities of Mannerism and to a clearer, more monumental style akin to the Italian maniera grande. [29] In the retables of de Vos, for example, "a tempered Mannerism is combined with a preference for narrative that is more in line with Netherlandish tradition". [29]

In Flanders, though not in the United Provinces, the mostly temporary displays for royal entries provided occasional opportunities for lavish public exhibitions of Mannerist style. Festival books recorded the entries into Antwerp of French princes and Habsburg archdukes. [30]


Ostrogski Tomb, by Willem van den Blocke, Tarnow Cathedral, 1612 Ostrogscy, Tarnow.JPG
Ostrogski Tomb, by Willem van den Blocke, Tarnów Cathedral, 1612

Mannerism was dominant in Poland-Lithuania between 1550 and 1650, when it was finally replaced by the Baroque. [32] The style includes various mannerist traditions, [32] which are closely related with ethnic and religious diversity of the country, as well as with its economic and political situation at that time. [33] [34] The period between 1550 and 1650 was a Golden Age of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (created in 1569) and a Golden Age of Poland. [35] The first half of the 17th century is marked by strong activity of the Jesuits and Counter-Reformation, which led to banishing of progressive Arians (Polish Brethren) in 1658. See below for the German-Silesian painter Bartholomeus Strobel, Polish court artist from 1639.

Dissemination in prints and books

Engraving of Rudolf II by Aegidius Sadeler (1603), based on a drawing (frame) and painted portrait by Bartholomeus Spranger. Rudolf2c.jpg
Engraving of Rudolf II by Aegidius Sadeler (1603), based on a drawing (frame) and painted portrait by Bartholomeus Spranger.

The importance of prints as a medium for disseminating mannerist style has already been mentioned; Northern Mannerism "was a style that lent itself admirably to printmaking, and inspired the production of a succession of masterpieces of the printmaker's art". [36] Goltzius was already the most celebrated engraver in the Netherlands when the Mannerist virus struck, and despite the disruptions of war he and other Netherlandish printmakers were connected with the well-oiled machinery of distribution across Europe that had been built up over the preceding fifty years, originally centred on Antwerp.

The same had not been true for the printmaking at Fontainebleau, and the prints made there (unusually for the period, all in etching) were technically rather rough, produced in smaller numbers, and mainly influential in France. They were made in an intense period of activity approximately from 1542 to 1548. [37] Those made in Paris were engravings and of a higher quality; produced from about 1540 to about 1580, they had a wider distribution. [38]

Many of the Fontainebleau prints were apparently made directly from drawn designs for the decorations of the palace, and consisted largely or entirely of ornamental frames or cartouches, although such was the scale of Fontainebleau that these might contain several full-length figures. Variations on the elaborate framings, as if made of cut, pierced and rolled parchment, played out in decorative framing schemes, engraved title pages and carved and inlaid furniture into the seventeenth century. [39]

Printed Mannerist ornament, in a somewhat broader sense of the word, was a good deal easier to produce than the risky application of an extreme Mannerist style to large figure compositions, and had been spreading across Europe well in advance of painting in the form of frames to portrait prints, book frontispieces, so like the elaborate doorways and fireplaces of Mannerist architecture, [40] ornament books for artists and craftsmen, and emblem books. From these and works in their own medium, goldsmiths, frame and furniture makers, and workers in many other crafts developed the vocabulary of Mannerist ornament.

The pattern illustrations shown in Wendel Dietterlin's book Architectura of 1593–4, produced in the relative backwater of Strasbourg, were some of the most extreme application of the style to architectural ornament. [36] The Northern Mannerist style was especially influential in the prodigy houses built in England by Elizabethan courtiers.

In the decorative arts

Impractical cup in form of a seahorse (presumably the head comes off), Leipzig 1590 Arte tedesca, cavallo marino, 1590-1600 ca., argento dorato e conchiglia.JPG
Impractical cup in form of a seahorse (presumably the head comes off), Leipzig 1590

The visual wit and sophistication of Mannerism in northern hands, which made it pre-eminently a court style, found natural vehicles in the work of goldsmiths, [41] set off by gems and coloured enamels, in which the misshaped pearls we call "baroque" might form human and animal torsos, both as jewellery for personal adornment and in objects made for the Wunderkammer . Ewers and vases took fantastic shapes, as did standing cups with onyx or agate bowls, and elaborate saltcellars like the Saliera of Benvenuto Cellini, the apex of Mannerist goldsmithing, completed in 1543 for Francis I and later given to Rudolf's uncle, another great collector. Wenzel Jamnitzer and his son Hans, goldsmiths to a succession of Holy Roman Emperors, including Rudolf, were unexcelled in the north. [42] Silversmiths made covered cups and richly wrought ewers and platters, strictly for display, perhaps incorporating the large sea-shells now being brought back from the tropics, which were "cherished as Art produced by Nature". [43] In the Netherlands a uniquely anamorphic "auricular style", employing writhing and anti-architectural cartilaginous motifs was developed by the van Vianen family of silversmiths. [44]

Detail of Rudolf's Imperial crown, gold, enamel and jewels. Prague, 1602 Weltliche Schatzkammer Wien (258c).JPG
Detail of Rudolf's Imperial crown, gold, enamel and jewels. Prague, 1602

Though Mannerist sculptors produced life-size bronzes, the bulk of their output by unit was of editions of small bronzes, often reduced versions of the large compositions, which were intended to be appreciated by holding and turning in the hands, when the best "give an aesthetic stimulus of that involuntary kind that sometimes comes from listening to music". [45] Small low relief panels in bronze, often gilded, were used in various settings, as on Rudolph's crown. [46]

Female sphinxes with extravagantly elongated necks and prominent breasts support a Burgundian cabinet of walnut in the Frick Collection, New York; soon Antwerp made a specialty of richly carved and veneered cabinets inlaid with tortoiseshell, ebony, [47] and ivory, with architectural interiors, mirrored to multiply reflections in feigned spaces. In England the Mannerist excesses of Jacobean furniture were expressed in extreme legs turned to imitate stacked covered standing cups, and a proliferation of enlaced strapwork covered plane surfaces. [48] Following the success of Brussels tapestries woven after the Raphael cartoons, Mannerist painters like Bernard van Orley and Perino del Vaga were called upon to design cartoons in Mannerist style for the tapestry workshops of Brussels and Fontainebleau. Painterly compositions in Mannerist taste appeared in Limoges enamels too, adapting their compositions and ornamented borders from prints. Moresques, swags and festoons of fruit inspired by rediscovered Ancient Roman grotesque ornament, first displayed in the Raphael school Vatican Stanze, were disseminated through ornament prints. This ornamental vocabulary was expressed in the North less in such frescoes and more in tapestry and illuminated manuscript borders.

In France, Saint-Porchaire ware of Mannerist forms and decor was produced in limited quantities for a restricted fashion-conscious clientele from the 1520s to the 1540s, while the crowded, disconcertingly lifelike compositions of snakes and toads characterize the Mannerist painted earthenware platters of Bernard Palissy. Like the Jamnitzers on occasion, [49] Palissy made moulds from real small creatures and plants to apply to his creations.

"Rustic" glazed earthenware platter attributed to Bernard Palissy, Paris Platter MET DT574 (cropped).jpg
"Rustic" glazed earthenware platter attributed to Bernard Palissy, Paris

Northern Mannerism, politics and religion

Northern Europe in the 16th century, and especially those areas where Mannerism was at its strongest, was affected by massive upheavals including the Protestant Reformation, Counter-Reformation, French Wars of Religion and Dutch Revolt. The relationship between Mannerism, religion and politics was very complex. Although religious works were produced, Northern Mannerist art de-emphasized religious subjects, and when it did treat them was usually against the spirit both of the Counter-Reformation attempt to control Catholic art and Protestant views on religious imagery. [50]

In the case of Rudolf's Prague and French art after the mid-century, secular and mythological Mannerist art seems to have been partly a deliberate attempt to produce an art that appealed across religious and political divides. [51] At the same time, Mannerism at its most extreme was usually a court style, often used to propagandize for the monarchy, [52] and it risked becoming discredited through association with unpopular rulers. While Rudolf's genuine tolerance seems to have avoided this in Germany and Bohemia, by the end of the century Mannerism had become associated by the Calvinist Protestants and other patriots of France and the Netherlands with their unpopular Catholic rulers. [53] But, at least earlier, many of the artists producing extreme Mannerist style were Protestant, and in France Calvinist, for example Bernard Palissy and a high proportion of the masters of Limoges enamel workshops.

Augustus and the Tiburtine Sibyl, Antoine Caron, c. 1580 Antoine Caron 001.jpg
Augustus and the Tiburtine Sibyl, Antoine Caron, c. 1580

Certain Mannerist works seem to echo the violence of the time, but dressed in classical clothing. Antoine Caron painted the unusual subject of Massacres under the Triumvirate (1562, Louvre), during the Wars of Religion, when massacres were a frequent occurrence, above all in the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 1572, six years after the painting. [54] According to art historian Anthony Blunt, Caron produced "what is perhaps the purest known type of Mannerism in its elegant form, appropriate to an exquisite but neurotic aristocratic society". [55] His cartoons for the Valois Tapestries, which hark back to the triumphalist History of Scipio tapestries designed for Francis I by Giulio Romano, [56] were a propaganda exercise on behalf of the Valois monarchy, emphasizing its courtly splendour at the time of its threatened destruction through civil war. Jean Cousin the Younger's only surviving painting, The Last Judgement, also comments on the civil war, betraying a "typically mannerist penchant for miniaturization". [57] Tiny, naked human beings "swarm over the earth like worms", while God looks down in judgement from above. [55]

Cornelis van Haarlem, Massacre of the Innocents, 1590 Cornelis van Haarlem - Bethlehemse kindermoord.jpg
Cornelis van Haarlem, Massacre of the Innocents , 1590

Cornelis van Haarlem's Massacre of the Innocents (1590, Rijksmuseum), more Baroque than Mannerist, may involve his childhood memories of the killings (in fact only of the garrison) after the Siege of Haarlem in 1572-3, which he lived through. Brughel's completely un-mannerist version of the same subject was bought by Rudolf, who had someone turn many of the massacred children into geese, calves, cheeses, and other less disturbing spoils. [58] In general, Mannerist painting emphasizes peace and harmony, and less often chooses battle subjects than either the High Renaissance or the Baroque.

Another subject popularized by Brughel, Saint John Preaching in the Wilderness, was given Mannerist treatments by several artists, as a lush landscape subject. But for Dutch Protestants the subject recalled the years before and during their Revolt, when they were forced to congregate for services in the open countryside outside towns controlled by the Spanish. [53]

Other outcrops

Etching by Jacques Bellange, The Three Marys at the Tomb 1610s The Holy Women at the Sepulchre.jpg
Etching by Jacques Bellange, The Three Marys at the Tomb 1610s

Henry VIII of England had been spurred in emulation of Fontainebleau to import his own, rather less stellar, team of Italian and French artists to work on his new Nonsuch Palace, which also relied heavily on stuccoes, and was decorated from about 1541. But Henry died before it was completed and a decade later it was sold by his daughter Mary without ever having seen major use by the court. The palace was destroyed before 1700 and only small fragments of work associated with it have survived, as well as a faint ripple of influence detectable in later English art, for example in the grand but unsophisticated stuccoes at Hardwick Hall.

Some (but not all) of the prodigy houses of Elizabethan architecture made use of ornament derived from the books of Wendel Dietterlin and Hans Vredeman de Vries within a distinctive overall style derived from many sources.

The portrait miniaturist Isaac Oliver shows tentative Late Mannerist influence, [59] which also appears in some immigrant portrait painters, such as William Scrots, but generally England was one of the countries least affected by the movement except in the area of ornament.

Though Northern Mannerism achieved a landscape style, portrait-painting remained without Northern equivalents of Bronzino or Parmigianino, unless the remarkable but somewhat naive Portraiture of Elizabeth I is considered as such.

One of the last flowerings of Northern Mannerism came in Lorraine, whose court painter Jacques Bellange (c.1575–1616) is now known only from his extraordinary etchings, though he was also a painter. His style derives from Netherlandish Mannerism, though his technique from Italian etchers, especially Barocci and Ventura Salimbeni. [60] Unusually, his subjects were mainly religious, and though the costumes are often extravagant, suggest intense religious feelings on his part.

Even later, the German-Silesian painter Bartholomeus Strobel, who had spent the last years of Rudolf's reign as a young artist in Prague, continued the Rudolfine style into the 1640s, despite the horrors visited on Silesia by the Thirty Years War, in works such as his enormous Feast of Herod with the Beheading of St John the Baptist in the Prado. From 1634 he retreated to the safety of Poland as court artist. [61]


Abraham Bloemaert, Landscape with St John Preaching in the Wilderness Abraham Bloemaert - Prediking van Johannes de Doper.jpg
Abraham Bloemaert, Landscape with St John Preaching in the Wilderness
History of Dutch and Flemish painting
Early Netherlandish   (14001523)
Renaissance painting   (15201580)
Northern Mannerism   (15801615)
Dutch "Golden Age" painting   (16151702)
Flemish Baroque painting   (16081700)
List of Dutch painters
List of Flemish painters

French artists influenced by the first School of Fontainebleau:

Jean Cousin the Elder (1500–c. 1590)
Jean Goujon (c. 1510-after 1572) sculptor and architect
Juste de Juste (c. 1505–c. 1559) – sculptor and etcher
Antoine Caron (1521–1599)

The continuing French tradition:

Germain Pilon (c. 1537–1590), sculptor
Androuet du Cerceau, family of architects; Jacques I introducing Mannerist ornament
Jean Cousin the Younger (ca. 1522–1595), painter
Toussaint Dubreuil (c. 1561–1602), second School of Fontainebleau:
Landscape (oil on canvas, 63.5 x 87 cm, Musee Fesch), attributed to Matthijs Bril Matthijs Bril - Landscape.tiff
Landscape (oil on canvas, 63.5 x 87 cm, Musée Fesch), attributed to Matthijs Bril

Working for Rudolf:

Giambologna (1529–1608), Flemish sculptor based in Florence
Adriaen de Vries (1556–1626), Dutch sculptor, pupil of Giambologna, who went to Prague
Bartholomeus Spranger (1546–1611) – Flemish painter, Rudolf's main painter
Hans von Aachen (1552–1615) – German, mythological subjects and portraits for Rudolf
Joseph Heintz the Elder (1564–1609) – Swiss pupil of Hans von Aachen
Paul van Vianen, Dutch silversmith and artist
Aegidius Sadeler – mainly a printmaker
Wenzel Jamnitzer (1507/8-1585), and his son Hans II and grandson Christof, German goldsmiths
Joris Hoefnagel, especially for miniatures of natural history
Roelant Savery, landscapes with animals and still-lifes
The Fall of the Titans (1588-1590) by Cornelis van Haarlem Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem - The Fall of the Titans - Google Art Project.jpg
The Fall of the Titans (1588–1590) by Cornelis van Haarlem
Feast of Herod with the Beheading of St John the Baptist, c. 1630s, Prado; almost 10 metres wide, Bartholomeus Strobel's masterpiece, and an allegory of the Thirty Years War Strobel-bautista.jpg
Feast of Herod with the Beheading of St John the Baptist , c. 1630s, Prado; almost 10 metres wide, Bartholomeus Strobel's masterpiece, and an allegory of the Thirty Years War

In the Netherlands:

Herri met de Bles, (1510-1555/60), landscape artist, earlier than the others
Karel van Mander – now best known as a biographer of Netherlandish artists
Hendrik Goltzius (1558–1617) – the leading engraver of the period, and later a painter in a less Mannerist style.
Cornelis van Haarlem (1562–1651)
Hubert Gerhard Dutch, (c. 1540/1550-1620)
Joachim Wtewael (1566–1638)
Jan Saenredam – mainly a printmaker
Jacob de Gheyn II – mainly a printmaker
Abraham Bloemaert (1566–1651), in the early part of his career
Hans Vredeman de Vries (1527–c. 1607), architect, ornament designer, who wrote on garden design.


Denis Calvaert – worked mostly in Italy, in a largely Italian style, as did
Paul and Matthijs Bril, mostly painting landscapes
Marten de Vos, founder of the Guild of Romanists
Otto van Veen, (1556–1629)


Hans Rottenhammer (1564–1625) landscapist from Munich, spent several years in Italy
Wendel Dietterlin (c. 1550–1599), German painter, best known for his book on architectural decoration
Jacques Bellange (c. 1575–1616), court painter of Lorraine, whose work only survives in etching.
Bartholomeus Strobel (1591–c. 1550), court portraitist, also religious scenes, in Silesia and then Poland.

See also


  1. The different definitions of what constituted Italian Mannerism are notorious, and have a knock-on effect in defining the northern versions. For the purposes of this article, the term is used broadly in the sense set out in Shearman (pp. 15–32 in particular), though in a rather wider sense when ornament is discussed. See Smyth, and especially its Introduction by Cropper for an account of the differing ways the term has been used by art historians.
  2. See, for example, Simon Jervis, Printed Furniture Designs Before 1650 (Furniture History Society), 1974.
  3. Zerner, 124.
  4. The term is also sometimes used in architecture to describe a different style, which is Mannerist. The painting style is mostly found before about 1520, the architectural one after about 1540.
  5. Shearman, 22–24
  6. Chastel, 219–20. Eva Prima Pandora.
  7. Bull, 278
  8. In particular Francis I of France was presented with Bronzino's Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time .
  9. Trevor-Roper, 87–104, quote attributed to "his indignant family" on p. 122
  10. Bull, 355, who says she usually wore "a long robe and unwieldy armour"
  11. Peter Marshall, The Mercurial Emperor: The Magic Circle of Rudolf II in Renaissance Prague, Random House, 28 November 2013, pp. 68-69
  12. Hans Mont at The J. Paul Getty Museum site
  13. Now divided between the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, the Frick Collection (with two) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Another Veronese series, the four "Allegories of Love" now in the National Gallery, London, was probably also commissioned by Rudolf.
  14. Bull, 84. See also 385–386 for mythological subjects in Mannerism generally.
  15. Trevor-Roper, 116–121, quote 120
  16. Bull, 117 and 133-34
  17. Trevor-Roper, 116–121, and Metzler, 130 ff Google books
  18. Shearman, 162–163
  19. 1 2 Slive, 8–9
  20. Slive, 13–14
  21. Slive 179–180, and Shawe-Taylor and Scott, 29–32.
  22. Slive, 180
  23. Vlieghe, 177.
  24. Shawe-Taylor, 21–23
  25. Joris Hoefnagel, Amoris Monumentum Matri Chariss(imae) Archived 5 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine at Nicolaas Teeuwisse
  26. Shawe-Taylor, 24–25, and 29–30
  27. Shawe-Taylor, 22–23, 32–33 on portraits, quotation from 33
  28. Shawe-Taylor, 37–40
  29. 1 2 Vlieghe, 13.
  30. Sample illustrated page from a fully online book of 1594. British Library. Another example from 1582. This strange record shows the limitations of such propaganda to affect events.
  31. "Pomnik Ostrogskich". (in Polish). Archived from the original on 2011-08-20. Retrieved 2009-12-28.
  32. 1 2 Tadeusz Dobrowolski; Helena Blumówna (1965). Historia sztuki polskiej (History of Polish art) (in Polish). Wydawnictwo Literackie. pp. 44, 346.
  33. Peter J. Katzenstein (1997). Mitteleuropa: between Europe and Germany. p. 83. ISBN   1-57181-124-9.
  34. François Penz; Gregory Radick; Robert Howell (2004). Space: in science, art and society. Cambridge University Press. p. 137. ISBN   0-521-82376-5.
  35. Andrzej Borowski (2007). Iter Polono-Belgo-Ollandicum: cultural and literary relationships between the Commonwealth of Poland and the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries. Księgarnia Akademicka. p. 8. ISBN   83-7188-951-8.
  36. 1 2 Griffiths and Hartley, 38
  37. Zerner, 125.
  38. Jacobsen 47. French exports of prints were mainly restricted to Spain and Portugal, although Vasari in Florence was aware of later prints of the decor at Fontainebleau.
  39. Shearman, 170
  40. Shearman, 121–122
  41. John Hayward, Virtuoso Goldsmiths and the Triumph of Mannerism, 1540–1620, 1976.
  42. See MMA external link for an example of Wenzel's work
  43. Fuchs, 34
  44. Rijksmuseum, "Paulus van Vianen", Van Vianem cup. Waddesdon Manor
  45. Shearman, 88–89, quote from p. 89
  46. Gruber, A., ed., The History of Decorative Arts: The Renaissance and mannerism in Europe (New York: Abbeville Press, 1994).
  47. Ebony-work was so prominent that cabinet-makers in Paris began to be called ébénistes in the 17th century.
  48. An extravagant example: Anthony Wells-Cole, "An oak bed at Montacute: a study in mannerist decoration," Furniture History: the Journal of the Furniture History Society, 17 (1981:1ff).
  49. Trevor-Roper, picture p. 88
  50. Shearman, 168–170
  51. Trevor-Roper, 98–101 on Rudolf, and Strong, Pt. 2, Chapter 3 on France, especially pp. 98–101, 112–113.
  52. The theme of Strong's book, see especially pp. 77, 85–7, 171–3
  53. 1 2 Wilenski
  54. Massacres Under the Triumvirate.Louvre
  55. 1 2 Blunt, 100.
  56. Jardine and Brotton, 128. The royal tournament grandstand for the 1565 summit between the French and Spanish courts at Bayonne had been hung with this gold-and-silk tapestry, which illustrated the triumph of Scipio.
  57. Chastel, 252. The Last Judgement, by Jean Cousin the Younger.
  58. Shawe-Taylor, 88–91. Rudolf's prime version is now in the Royal Collection, other versions show the original details, some of which are now also showing through thin overpaint on the original.
  59. Shearman, 28
  60. Griffiths, 36–39
  61. Harosimowicz, Jan (2002), ""What could be better now than the struggle for freedom and faith", Confessionalization and the Estates' Quest for Liberation as Reflected in the Silesian Arts of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries", from the exhibition catalogue 1648 – War and Peace in Europe, 2002, Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Münster. See article for further references.

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