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Mannerism was the result of deliberately contradicting classical rules that had been established during the Renaissance. As a result of this development, a style that was beginning to wear thin within the rigid schemes of its canon was given new life. In independent circles, such as in the courts of certain princes and in some intellectual circles, an exaggerated and sometimes even cryptic art was patronised, only appropriate for the initiated and those with refined tastes who were capable of appreciating the hidden meaning behind the violation and twisting of the pictorial rules. Courts such as that of Rodolfo II of Prague, Papal circles, the Venetian Republic, the Toledo of El Greco were just some of the sophisticated strongholds where this anti-natural art took root. The anatomies of figures in this type of art were tremendously distorted, with elongated limbs or faces, in twisted and physically impossible postures. The colours did not reflect Nature but rather were strange, cold, artificial, and clashed violently instead of being in harmonious tonal ranges as advocated by the Renaissance. Michelangelo himself or the academic Raphael experienced the pleasure of transgression with their final paintings, blurring the figures or leaving works unfinished. Titian, Correggio and Giorgione created complicated symbolisms in their paintings which still have not been deciphered, as is the case of the latter's The Tempest. Precious metal craftsmanship was one of the fields that most benefited from this complex art. El Greco was deeply influenced by Mannerism, although somewhat later than most other painters. Spain had already gone through the Mannerist fashion, especially with regards to painters related to the Escorial (Tibaldi and Navarrete the Mute). El Greco had just arrived but was already out of fashion, failing to make his mark on the court, although Philip II did pay extremely high prices for his paintings. El Greco represents the style in its most sublime form in a context that had already gone beyond Mannerism and was entering the Baroque of the Catholic Counter-Reformation.

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