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Readings in Italian Mannerism II



Edited By Liana De Girolami Cheney

This collection celebrates the 450th year anniversary of the publication of Giorgio Vasari’s Vite (The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects [Florence: Giunti, 1568]), in which, in the prolegomenon, architects were highly praised along with the principles and technology of architecture. To honor this significant event, the selected articles in this book contain some published excerpts, some revised and expanded, some never published. These articles demonstrate the extraordinary influence of the classical tradition in Renaissance and Mannerist architecture and its role in the education of architectural students. In particular, these essays discuss the materials employed and their functions as well as the architect’s role in society. These articles also address the impact of Mannerist architecture and art theory in sixteenth-century European architecture and culture.

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E. Architectural Mannerism and the Polish-Lithuanian Reformation (Andrzej Piotrowski)


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Andrzej Piotrowski

This essay challenges three sets of assumptions that underlie the skepticism, if not outright dismissal, among some historians of Mannerism as a substantive form of architectural and artistic production.1 The first has to do with the Mannerist mode of representation and revolves around the very notion of a style. Mannerist works, especially in architecture, seem to defy scholarly expectations of a commonly shared artistic program with an identifiable set of formal attributes. These compositions elude the Hegelian notion of the teleological purpose of a style, which assumes that, just as successful political leaders have always established clear goals for the state, influential artists have articulated equally well-defined programs for its high culture.2 I argue that this expectation of formal uniformity is inadequate to the task of understanding the practices or meanings of Mannerism. Indeed, as this essay will show, the material practices known as architectural Mannerism were antithetical to that teleological model, as it was a diverse and highly localized way of questioning the political status quo and principles determining dominant representational practices. As the following examples reveal, such artists and architects, motivated by the political, religious, and scientific turmoil of the period, experimented with symbolic conventions and common ways of perceiving and interpreting the world to probe tacit cultural norms ← 199 | 200 → and test new ways of thinking about art and its function. In many cases, especially when exploring philosophical or...

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