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The Florentine Mannerism


It’s an artistic movement which was born the first time in Florence with the laboratory of the “modern manner”, thanks to the writings of the ancient classics by Plinio, Cicero and Quintilian, who described the evolution of figurative language through a gradual search for beauty until they got to absolute perfection. Then the “modern manner” arrived in Europe.

Giorgio Vasari, born in Arezzo, wrote the “Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptures and Architects” and published it in 1550, the path of Italian art as a slow, but grandiose development which has its roots from the end of 1200s until of 1500s achieving a level that Vasari calls the “modern manner”. The last indicates the looseness of the artist and easier working with drawing and with the color.

In the early 1500s the art current is linked to Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael providing a fundamental contribution for the definition of the High Renaissance.

The Sack of Rome (1527) is one of the most relevant facts, which determines the spread of the new art because the artists such as such as Rosso Fiorentino, Benvenuto Cellini, Francesco Primaticcio escaped from Rome and departed at the court of Francis I, King of France, in the Palace of Fontainebleau, giving life to the laboratories of the most important “modern manner”.

The “modern manner” becomes an art “regime” around 1540, a kind of formal code required and shared by kings of all of Europe, to express their taste and to impose a visual immobile image of absolute power. The privileged field is the portrait: the aristocratic ideal, court etiquette, composure as firm as the ancient statues.

The “modern manner” prefers a formal modern intellectual, elegant, full of literary and symbolic references intended to a select audience.

Benvenuto Cellini

The artist was one of the greatest goldsmiths of all time and an excellent monumental sculpture; he was also a brilliant writer who offered his own attested testimony while describing his own biography in a romantic manner. He wrote a book titled “Life”. He also wrote two treaties on sculpture and on goldsmith technique.

Born in Florence in 1500 Cellini initially worked exclusively as a goldsmith in Rome and then headed for France to Fontainebleau where he lived from 1540 to 1545. There he made the famous salt cellar in gold and enamel, thus becoming the center of the sophisticated claimed present at the mannerist court back then.

His personality was very restless and because of his behavior he had many enemies; he was also imprisoned both in Rome and in Florence. His greatest enemy was Baccio Bandinelli, the Medici family’s favorite sculpture. However Giorgio Vasari is also rival, like Agnolo Bronzino and Bartolomeo Ammannati. Besides being a goldsmith and a sculpture, he was also commission work as a restorer at the Medician court, cleaning and completing ancient works from Arezzo and Palestrina.

Return to Florence, in 1545 Cosimo I de’ Medici commissioned him to do a work of art that would glorify the deeds of the Grand Duke. Thus began the long and complex creation of a group centered on Perseus for the Loggia della Signoria. The bronze statue was placed under the left arch in 1554, like a pendant (mirror) for the sculptures of Judith holding the head of Holophernes (work finished by Donatello in 1400s for the Medici family; however it was ransacked in 1495 by the Republicans after the Medici family fled Florence – consequently the group became Republican and a Savonarola symbol). The sculpture represent the triumphant hero holding Medusa’s head which is shown to the viewer as a horrendous trophy. This image qualifies as a menace and a premonition for all the enemies of the dynasty (especially for the Strozzi family and for the Republicans), thus sentencing the end of all the political positions.

The sculpture of Perseus is placed on a high pedestal adorned with bronzes (the originals are in the Bargello Museum) and it was designed to look down toward the viewer. The artist sculptured a headless Medusa from whose body snakes come out, alluding to the inner-city battles which have always undermined democracy.

In stylistic relationship with Donatello's Judith, the artist is limited only to the presence of the pillow; the remains of the defeated monster are placed here, while the sinuous body of Perseus is fixed, offering the viewer multiple points of view. As an overview, the sculptor adds details of the helmet, the hilt of the sword and the fins feet, snakes on the severed head of the Gorgon. There are four bronzes on the base of Perseus and they are characterized by the myth of the victorious hero: his father Zeus, Perseus child with his mother Danae, Minerva, who gave him her helmet and winged sandals. The heroic act of Perseus finishes with a relief below the pedestal representing the "Liberation of Andromeda".

Jean de Bologne

A Flemish artist, arrived in Florence 1553 in order to perfect his artistic preparation started in the Flanders and consolidated in Rome. Jean de Bologne (in Italian Giambologna) remained permanently in the Grand Ducky, soon becoming one of Francesco I saved artist; he received a monthly pay from 1562 on. From 1565 he become an official sculpture of the Medici dynasty, created masterworks such as little Venus of the Grotto of Buontalenti or the Appennino massive of Villa Pratolino.

The Grand Ducke government decided to transform the Loggia della Signoria, traditional political spot in the city in real open-air museum, which would have exalted the greatness of the Medici family in the Florentine community.

Cosimo I commissioned him to create sculpture in order to substitute the Judith by Donatello, a too vivid symbol of the Florentine republican past. The “Rape of the Sibines was completed in 1583. It used to be under the right arch of the Loggia della Signoria. The sculptural group, originally by Giambologna, wasn’t supposed to represent the narration quoted by Titus Livius in the “History of Rome”. Legend has it that soon after the foundation of the city, Romulus tried to rich an agreement with the neighboring populations in order to provide women to procreate so that they would populate the city. The peoples refused the king’s proposal; therefore he organized a great feast to distract them and then kidnaped the women.

Initially the work was designed for the “Three ages of men”. Only later the sculptural group has been baptized the “Rape of the Sabine” by Raffaello Borghini. The theme of the work was made clear later with the insertion of a bronze bas-relief on the pedestal which illustrate the same theme.

The peak of Giambologna career was reached precisely with this masterpiece, where an unique marble block gave life to various figures, united by a dramatic equilibrium.

Michelangelo’s influenced is clearly visible in the bland of faces and irregular bodies that can be admired from various points of view even though the final result is less massive when compared to the traditional modal by Michelangelo. It seems like his studied the technique of marble sculpting with Michelangelo. The three figures represent a young men holding a young women high in his arms while an old men trapped in between his legs is trying to stop him.

This magnificent white marble sculpture of outstanding beauty is 4.10 meters high. The figures aren’t only aesthetical bodies, but the expressive faces are an manifestation of force – meaning the fight in which the best one wins. Furthermore, the sculpture reveals the technical structure with which it has been created: the three figures, perfectly and distinctly represented, seem two whirl on one another, and like a shadow on unique body, they are rotating and stretching out and raising up words.

Giambologna created a real technical tour de force, succeeding in sculpting the statue from an unique marble block. This was the first statue with multiple points of view, typical of the Mannerist movement. Consequently the artist invited the spectator to create a spiral – shaped path in order to observe the work from so many significant perspectives.

The “terra cruda” (clay) original modal is preserved in the Accademia Gallery.

The statue was exposed to natural agents and vandals (a group of drunk men climbed the statue in order to place on empty bottle in the young women’s hand, causing huge damages). The statue has also been damage by the large quantity of smog and because of marble cancer. It has been restored and various studies have been made in 2001, so it is very probable that it would be placed in a museum in order to protect it.

It’s an artistic movement which was born the first time in Florence with the laboratory of the “modern manner”, thanks to the writings of the ancient classics by Plinio, Cicero and Quintilian, who described the evolution of figurative language through a gradual search for beauty until they got to absolute perfection. Then the “modern manner” arrived in Europe.

Giorgio Vasari, born in Arezzo, wrote the “Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptures and Architects” and published it in 1550, the path of Italian art as a slow, but grandiose development which has its roots from the end of 1200s until of 1500s achieving a level that Vasari calls the “modern manner”. The last indicates the looseness of the artist and easier working with drawing and with the color.

In the early 1500s the art current is linked to Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael providing a fundamental contribution for the definition of the High Renaissance.

The Sack of Rome (1527) is one of the most relevant facts, which determines the spread of the new art because the artists such as such as Rosso Fiorentino, Benvenuto Cellini, Francesco Primaticcio escaped from Rome and departed at the court of Francis I, King of France, in the Palace of Fontainebleau, giving life to the laboratories of the most important “modern manner”.

The “modern manner” becomes an art “regime” around 1540, a kind of formal code required and shared by kings of all of Europe, to express their taste and to impose a visual immobile image of absolute power. The privileged field is the portrait: the aristocratic ideal, court etiquette, composure as firm as the ancient statues.

The “modern manner” prefers a formal modern intellectual, elegant, full of literary and symbolic references intended to a select audience.

#Art #Mannerism #Renaissance #Florence #Italy

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