Although the style of Mannerist architecture is relatively easy to recognize, scholars differ in their explanations of its origins and motivations. Mannerist architecture first appeared in Italy in the 1520s. It is sometimes thought to have developed out of the chaos that ensued in Rome after the city was pillaged in 1527 by members of the army of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, who maintained an uneasy alliance with the papacy at the time. This latter-day sack of Rome, as it came to be called, created such a dramatic political, social, and economic disjuncture that, although the city recovered relatively quickly, its artistic culture was forever changed. In addition, because Raphael, the quintessential Renaissance artist, had died in 1520, his large workshop of painters and architects had dispersed across Italy, free to develop their own variations on the Renaissance style. Because Mannerism reveals a marked contrast to the rigid formality of the Vitruvian principles so carefully followed in Renaissance architecture, many scholars consider Mannerism to be a reaction against the Renaissance. More recently, however, Mannerism is simply seen as a natural expansion of Renaissance principles to encompass a broader definition of classicism. The term comes from the Italian maniera, which in turn comes from the word for "hand," or mano, in Italian. Thus, Mannerism has been interpreted as a highly "stylized" favoring of technical virtuosity. This definition is consistent with qualities found even before 1520 in court patronage in Florence and Rome, where paintings reveal an aristocratic elegance and grace in addition to the Renaissance ideal of riposo, or restraint.
   In architecture, Michelangelo Buonarroti demonstrated an early example of Mannerist style in his Laurentian Library vestibule, built beginning in 1524 for the Medici family in the Monastery of San Lorenzo in Florence. The vestibule "breaks" several Vitruvian design principles concerning the use of columns, volutes, and niches. Here, Michelangelo crowds the wall with a classical articulation done in pietra serena, or dark stone. Paired columns sink into the wall, defying their use as a support system, and niches and corners remain empty while volutes are denied their supportive function. This same questioning of classical Vitruvian principles is carried over in Michelangelo's New Sacristy, built for the side of San Lorenzo to house the funerary monuments of Giuliano and Lorenzo de Medici. In this chapel, crowded walls ask more questions than resolve functional issues.
   Another example of Mannerist architecture can be seen in the Palazzo del Tè in Mantua, begun in 1527 by Giulio Romano for Duke Federigo Gonzaga. Gonzaga hired Romano, who had just fled Rome that same year, to expand his hunting lodge into a suburban palace to entertain guests. Thus, the palace has horse stables, gardens, pools, and large rooms decorated with frescoes that feature playful, mythological narratives. Its Mannerist architecture is traditionally considered to be an equally playful yet very erudite commentary on Renaissance architectural rules, which Duke Gonzaga and his aristocratic guests would find enjoyment in critiquing. The one-story façade of the palace is designed with heavily rusticated stone and windows separated from each other by unequally spaced bays. It lacks symmetry and rationality—two main principles of Vitruvian aesthetics. The first courtyard also reveals a series of similar design elements. The bays are irregularly spaced and windows and niches are both blind. Engaged columns with Doric capitals do not line up with the triglyphs and metopes that appear in the frieze above. Instead, several of the metopes are punctured by attic windows, while some of the triglyphs appear to slip downward, and are therefore called slipping triglyphs.
   Some of these same features appear in the Roman Palazzo Massimi alle Colonne, built in the 1530s by Baldassare Peruzzi on the site of the family palace, which had been destroyed during the sack of Rome. Peruzzi designed two adjoining palaces for the Massimi brothers on the irregularly shaped plot of land and joined the palaces with one curved façade that has a columned portico. Baldassare Peruzzi had previously worked in the shop of Raphael, where he was known for his perspective studies and fresco technique. He fled to his native Siena right after the sack of Rome but returned later that year to help with the reconstruction of the city. The Mannerist style was ultimately short-lived, but the shift in focus from Vitruvian classicism to more varied sources found further expression in the following Baroque age.

Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts. . 2008.

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