|Bella Maniera – Beautiful Style|
It was the eminent painter, architect and art critic Vasari, who coined the term ‘maniera’.
The ‘Mannerists’ were painters who took their inspiration not directly from nature, but from the style of the great artists previously active in Rome, particularly Raphael and Michelangelo.
Working in Florence were Bronzino, Rosso Fiorentino and Pontormo. Their work can be seen in the main museums and also in other places in the city.
An exhibition on Bronzino was held in Palazzo Strozzi recently (closing on 23 January of this year), showing most of his works as well as those of his teacher Pontormo, an artist with a peculiar personality, who was in turn a pupil of Andrea del Sarto, also his rival.
Jacopo Carrucci, or Pontormo, was in fact an introvert and a tormented artist who was certainly well ahead of his time and who liked to experiment also in his private life: he lived alone in a tall house, in a room on the top floor, reachable only by a ladder which he pulled up after him by means of a pulley.
His neuroses are related in his ‘Diary’ (1554-56). Apart from a few visits to Rome to study the works of Michelangelo, he lived permanently in Florence under the protection of the Medici family. One of his most refined and surprisingly ecstatic works which for some critics stands as a manifesto for Mannerism, is certainly his Deposition, now in the Church of Santa Felicità, in the square of the same name near the Palazzo Vecchio, just off the Via Guiccardini leading to Palazzo Pitti.
It is possible to visit the house where he was born, located in a hamlet called Pontorme near Empoli.
Other works by him - including his 1517 drawing The Skeletons, the altarpiece with the Virgin and Saints for Santa Maria Nuova of 1518, the altarpiece with Moses Defends the Daughters of Jethro of 1523 – are to be found in the Uffizi Gallery.
At the Uffizi and again in Palazzo Pitti, as well as Francesco I’s study in Palazzo Vecchio or Palazzo della Signoria we also find several portraits by Agnolo Bronzino. In the room dedicated to Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino at the Uffizi are his Lamentation and the Panciatichi Holy Family.
In 1539 Bronzino was called to the court of Cosimo I de' Medici for whom he decorated Eleonora of Toledo’s chapel in Palazzo Vecchio.
On the façade of the church are frescoes by Pontormo and inside the cloister there are splendid frescoes by Andrea del Sarto, Nativity of the Virgin and Arrival of the Magi at the court of King Herod in Jerusalem, painted between 1513 and 1514, Rosso Fiorentino’s Assumption of 1513, his earliest work, and Pontormo’s Visitation of 1515.
Time spent in this cloister offers the visitor a unique opportunity to admire, from the breathtaking distance of only a few centimetres, the works of some of the best artists not only of Mannerism, but in the history of art in general.