Mannerism is as much a term as it is a trend. The word derives from the Italian maniera (style) and traditionally refers to the hyper-sophisticated, courtly art of central Italy dating from about 1520–80. It is an age typified by Pontormo, Bronzino, Parmigianino, and many others, whose works brim with an absolute brand of stylishness distilled from Renaissance art. The same can be said of many artists working today, who also rely on cultural derivatives to convey their meaning. History repeats itself, and, interestingly enough, not only with the same motivation but also with some of the same vocabulary.

“We are mostly Mannerists now,” Peter Schjeldahl observed in his New Yorker review of “The Drawings of Bronzino” at The Metropolitan Museum (February 1, 2010). Schjeldahl argues that artists of today bear the burden of modernism just as Bronzino’s...


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