The term ‘Mannerism’ refers to the style in art history that succeeded the Renaissance. Around 1520 a number of Italian artists tried to equal the style (maniera) of their predecessors – celebrated masters such as Raphael and Michelangelo. They studied the muscular bodies and complex poses in Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel and then went a step further. Bodies with exaggerated musculature, extreme torsion and small heads were the result. Mannerists expressed emotions and drama through their newly developed pictorial language. In so doing their style became ‘mannered’, hence the appellation ‘mannerism’.
Artificial body shapes and vivid, cool colours were preferred above the ideal proportions of the Renaissance. Through travelling artists, such as the Fleming Bartholomeus Spranger, Mannerism spread rapidly throughout Europe. Haarlem artists, including Hendrick Goltzius and Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem, introduced it into the northern countries.