FOR centuries "Mannerism" has been a dirty word in the art historian's book, meaning "in the manner of" —or something akin to copycat. Renaissance enthusiasts use it to describe the painters who, in the century from 1520 to 1,620, tried to ape the much-admired manner of Michelangelo and Raphael, but, in missing the essence, turned out clumsy, valueless paintings. But art critics are now making an abrupt about-face. The long-despised Mannerists have at last been rescued from the dustbin and brushed off, to become Europe's latest vogue.

High point for this new Mannerist...

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