Introduction: Exploring the History and Features of the School of Style

In the Renaissance era, Italian painters found inspiration in the harmonious and sophisticated medieval artworks. Among the prominent figures of that period were Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. The School of Style emerged as a post-Renaissance movement, with artists delving into and building upon Renaissance painting techniques. Let’s delve into the history, development, and distinguishing characteristics of this art school.

What is the School of Style?

The School of Style, also known as Mannerism, originated in Italy around 1503 and endured for a century. It derived its name from the Italian word “manner” which means “style.” The term reflects the exaggerated and extravagant artistic style prevalent during that time.

Joachim Wtewael, "Persus and Andromeda", 1611
Image: Joachim Wtewael, “Persus and Andromeda”, 1611

The Post-Renaissance styles emerged as a bridge between the early Renaissance and the later Baroque period. These styles aimed to exaggerate the stylistic elements inherited from the Renaissance, deviating from the idyllic balance and harmony that characterized Renaissance paintings.

History of Formation and Development

In the late 15th century, numerous painters in Florence transitioned from ancient to classical styles, giving rise to the Renaissance artistic movement. The Renaissance developed in three stages: Early Renaissance, Prosperous Renaissance, and Post-Renaissance.

During the Early Renaissance, artists drew inspiration from ancient works, laying the foundation for the birth of the Renaissance art movement. The Prosperous Renaissance, spanning from 1490 to 1530, paved the way for the emergence of the School of Style.

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The painters of the School of Style, despite their interest in Renaissance perfectionism, aimed to break away from clichés. Instead of merely copying existing principles, they embraced exaggeration, dynamic forms, emotional expression, and imaginative creation. The Style school represented a rebellion against the classical balance and proportion of the Renaissance, emphasizing elegance through disproportionate anomalies.

Renaissance painting always emphasized balance and proportion, while the Style school emphasized elegance in a state of disproportionate anomaly.
Image: Renaissance painting always emphasized balance and proportion, while the Style school emphasized elegance in a state of disproportionate anomaly.

Outstanding Features of the School of Style

Enlarged Image

The School of Style is characterized by its penchant for exaggeration. Pioneered by the Italian painter Parmigianino, the artists of this movement rejected precise proportions, opting instead for stretched and flexed human figures, evoking a sense of forceful movement. This technique enhanced the visual impact and added personality to their works.

Parmigianino, “Madonna with a Long Neck”, 1534-1540
Image: Parmigianino, “Madonna with a Long Neck”, 1534-1540

According to Giorgio Vasari, a renowned Italian painter, architect, historian, and writer, Parmigianino discovered this style while painting a self-portrait. Vasari described Parmigianino’s revelation in his famous history of painting, “Life of Painters”: “While working on a self-portrait, Parmigianino noticed a peculiar effect in the reflection of his face on a round mirror. The arm of the subject in the foreground appeared curved due to the curved surface of the glass. This observation inspired him to incorporate this effect into his work.”

Decorative Arts

To elevate Renaissance painting, the stylists incorporated lavish scenes and decorative elements. Unlike their Renaissance counterparts, early Renaissance artists embraced texture in their works. Taking inspiration from medieval tapestry millefleur, meaning “thousands of flowers” in French, Botticelli introduced floral motifs into his large mythological paintings, such as “Spring.”

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Botticelli, "Spring", ca. c.1477-1482
Image: Botticelli, “Spring”, ca. c.1477-1482

Subsequently, the stylistic painters became increasingly interested in decorative arts, infusing their paintings and sculptures with a profusion of imaginative ideas. A prime example of this style is Giuseppe Arcimboldo, who created unique portraits using plants, animals, and various other materials.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, "Spring", 1573
Image: Giuseppe Arcimboldo, “Spring”, 1573

Unique Color Palette

In contrast to the popular Renaissance colors, the stylistic painters favored vibrant and unconventional hues. This departure from traditional color palettes can be observed in the works of Italian painter Jacopo da Pontormo, who took Renaissance color techniques to new heights.

Pontormo, “The Deposition”, 1526-1528
Image: Pontormo, “The Deposition”, 1526-1528

El Greco, a Spanish painter who later moved to Rome, also gained recognition for his unconventional use of colors. Like other stylistic painters, El Greco drew inspiration from the previous generation while maintaining his unique artistic style.

El Greco, “The vision of Saint John or the opening of the fifth seal”, ca. 1609-1614
Image: El Greco, “The vision of Saint John or the opening of the fifth seal”, ca. 1609-1614


Although not as widely embraced as previous art movements, the School of Style remains one of the most influential pictorial movements of the Renaissance. The discoveries and artistic innovations made by the stylists laid the groundwork for subsequent schools of art.

Art school style exhibition
Image: Art school style exhibition

For more information about the School of Style and its impact on the artistic world, visit Caravansarai.