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The term mannerism as it applies to painting, describes paintings that were done by Italian artists from about 1520 until 1600. These "Mannerist" works were given their own term because they could not really be classified as either Renaissance or Baroque. The term is taken from the Italian word "maniera" and was used by Vasari in his descriptions of a work of art's schematic quality.

Many Mannerists purposely defied the rules of traditional and classical art in their work. The architecture shows this breaking away from classical traditions quite clearly. The art features the human figure primarily in poses that are contorted and elongated and muscles that are greatly overemphasized. As well, a Mannerist painting or artwork has a certain degree of unclear and forced composition and also has quite a degree of discrepancy of scale between the figures and the perspective in that it is painted.

The artists often painted with very vivid colors that appear quite harsh, as it was their intention to have their paintings achieve an emotional effect on the spectator rather than just describing the forms. Colors most often included reds blending into orange, yellow into green and so forth. Pontormo, Rosso, Parmigianino, Michelangelo, Tintoretto and El Greco are all considered to have produced great Mannerist works. The movement did not have a great influence in Vienna. Giulio Romano, one of Raphael's most gifted pupils, began developing Mannerism as a response and objection to Raphael's work, using the exaggerated facial features, gestures and lighting as part of his protest. However, Raphael's work, the "Transfiguration", is one of the paintings from that Romano derived his style.

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