The rebirth of classical ideal, its artists using naturalism and linear perspective to achieve new heights of realism
Eventually the High Renaissance began to stagnate, producing vapid works of technical perfection but little substance. Several artists sought ways out of the downward spiral.
Mannerism was the most interesting attempt, a movement that found its muse in the extreme torsion of Michelangelo’s figures—in sculpture and painting—and his unusual use of oranges, greens, and other nontraditional colors, most especially in the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
In sculpture, Mannerism produced twisting figures in exaggerated contraposto positioning.
Notable Mannserist artists
Artists who took Michelangelo's ideas and ran them to their logical limits included painters Andrea del Sarto (1486-1530) and his students Rosso Fiorentino (1494-1540) and Pontormo (1494-1556).
All three are well represented in Florence's Uffizi, Pitti Palace, SS. Annunziata, though you shouldn't miss Pontormo's 1535-27 frescoes in Florence's Santa Felice and Rosso's 1521 masterpiece Deposition in Volterra's Pinacoteca. Most of Sienese Domenico Beccafumi's (1484-1551) important works stayed in Siena.
Il Parmigianino's 1534 Madonna of the Long Neck, in the Uffizi, is exemplary of the style, starring a waifish Virgin with a grotesquely long neck and pointy head.
Sculptors fared better with the Mannerism idea, producing for the first time statues that needed to be looked at from multiple angles to be fully appreciated, like Giambologna’s (1529-1608) Rape of the Sabines (1583) under Florence’s Loggia dei Lanzi and the Fountain of the Moors (1623-26) at Livorno’s harbor by his student, Pietro Tacca (1577-1664).