As early as the second and third decades of the 16th century the Italian Renaissance, particularly in certain paintings, showed signs of turbulence and unrest. At times painters such as Raphael, Correggio and, to a certain extent, Titian rejected its values. In fact an artistic movement, which came to be called Mannerism, was about to appear. It was an individual and personal mode of expression, pre-eminently intellectual, which no longer derived from other well-known masters or from the consolidated Renaissance pattern. This style not only gained the support of artists aware of the crisis in Renaissance values, but it also appealed to the taste, habits and cultural viewpoint of a particular social class throughout Europe. From a historical point of view it is well known that all this coincided with a moment of great moral uneasiness in Italy, a country then passing through the crisis of the Reformation without knowing how to set up opposing autonomous values.
The causes of this artistic experience were varied, but the effects similar: the rejection of the classic ideal in the portrayal of the human figure, and of poetic values in imaginary settings.
In Florence, Mannerism, first hinted at in the works of Andrea del Sarto, is found in the works of Pontormo, Rosso, Beccafumi and Bronzino. Engaged on paintings and frescoes, both religious and secular, these men disclosed an ideal of beauty dignified and expansive in its gestures and unusual in its expression. They favoured abstract spaces in rhythmic compositions, figures delineated with a more conscious, fragmented out- line, artificial lighting and a gamut of new colours, some iridescent some metallic. In Jacopo Pontormo's Descent from the Cross (Sta Felicita, Florence) the colour is pale and watery but in his Visitation, at Carmignano, there is a closely reasoned development of rhythmic, ample forms rendered sonorous by pink, green and orange.