Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mannerism (pt. 1)

When Raphael painted the Alba Madonna c. 1510, Italy was at peace in theocracy, but in just a few decades the religious unity of Western Christendom was shattered.  The Protestant Reformation, led by Martin Luther, officially began in 1517 with the publication of Luther's 95 Theses.  The tension, unrest, and disorder in Rome led to an art style known as Mannerism, which was a deliberate revolt by artists against the goals of the Renaissance.  Mannerism tried to achieve imbalance and restlessness.  Humans had impossible poses and looked supernaturally graceful.  The quintessential example of this is Parmigianino's Madonna with the Long Neck, painted around 1535 (yeah, that's its real title).
The Madonna is enormous and looks calm even though her Child is about to fall.  Christ's proportions are unnatural, and He looks quite pale with His arms spread in the position of crucifixion.  The crowd on the left seems uninterested in the baby Jesus, and Mary herself seems unconcerned with Christ (perhaps a critique of the church for its increasing worldliness).  The background of the painting is quite confusing.  Is the setting interior or exterior?  (It would appear to be both).  The background on the right is spacious, whereas the foreground is crowded.  The man in the background holding the scroll is unidentified.

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