Mannerism came about towards the end of Leonardo da Vinci’s and Raphael’s careers around 1520, realizing its full expression in the career of artists like Michelangelo (1475 – 1564). Da Vinci’s The Last Supper and Raphael’s The School of Athens are two of the strongest examples of the balance between High Renaissance traditions and Mannerism. At the turn of the 16th century, until about 1525, Italian art was also classified as the High Renaissance, a zenith of da Vinci’s work, along with the late works of Giorgione (1477 – 1510) and the emerging work of his succeeding Venetian master, Titian (1485 – 1576). The late works of Andrea del Sarto (1486 – 1531) and Correggio (1489 – 1534) also began to define the emergence of Mannerism from the High Renaissance.
Where Italy’s Renaissance centered around Florence and the Florentine masters, Mannerism was largely born of the great patronage of Rome. Here painting, architecture and sculpture was experiencing the pinnacle of the Italian Renaissance’s influence and, artists began to experiment with the more expressive touches of Mannerism, before a return to naturalism in the Baroque period. The career of Giulio Romano (1499 – 1546) embody Mannerism in painting and architecture, developing a distinct Roman style after learning from the master Raphael. Though the development of Mannerism in Florence can be seen in the works of Agnolo Bronzino, called Il Bronzino (1503 – 1572) and Tintoretto (1518 – 1594) also defined 16th Century Italian art in the Venetian style.
Other notable Italian painters active in the 16th century include, Il Sodoma (1477 – 1549), Il Garofalo (1481 – 1559), Pontormo (1491 – 1557), Il Rosso (1494 – 1540), Parmigianino (1503 – 1540), Alessandro Allori (1535 – 1607), Jacopo da Empoli (1551 – 1640), Scarsellino (1550 – 1620), among many others.
Perhaps the most important 16th century Italian artist, due to his contributions to painting and architecture, but even more so in his biographies, is Giorgio Vasari (1511 – 1574). In writing his biographical tome of artists, The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, first published in 1550, Vasari solidified the impact of Italian art throughout the 14th and 15th Centuries and into 16th Century.