By Anne Leader and Martina Bollini

Rosso Fiorentino was born 8 March 1494 in Florence. Together with Jacopo Pontormo, Fiorentino was a pupil of Andrea del Sarto. Rethinking the Florentine tradition, they both developed two highly innovative paths to the “modern manner.” Rosso’s early works are characterized by a refined elegance, though sometimes with outbursts of violence, as exemplified by the painting Moses and the Daughters of Jethro.

At the end of 1523 Rosso moved to Rome, where the exposure to the works of Michelangeloand Raphael deeply affected his style. The muscular nude body of the Dead Christ with Angels (c. 1526) clearly reflects Rosso’s admiration for the Sistine Ceiling.

After the sack of Rome in 1527, Rosso fled the city, as did Parmigianino, Perino del Vaga, and Polidoro da Caravaggio, all part of the artistic diaspora caused by the Sack. Rosso wandered restlessly in central Italy, until he eventually reached France in 1530. While at the French court, Rosso took part in a wide range of projects, the most important being the decoration of the Galerie François I at the palace of Fontainebleau.

Florentine died on 14 November 1540 at Fontainebleau. The artist had traveled there to enter the service of Francis I, King of France, who had gathered around him a number of Italian artists including Rosso, Primaticcio, and Cellini. Rosso is recognized as one of the leading first-generation Mannerists, and he is celebrated for his originality, striking colors, and intense drama. According to Giorgio Vasari, Rosso killed himself in remorse after falsely accusing a friend of stealing money from him. This account has been much discussed and disputed by art historians ever since.

Further reading: Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino: Diverging Paths of Mannerism, exhibition catalogue, edited by Carlo Falciani and Antonio Natali, Florence 2014.

Music-making Angel, oil on panel, 1518 (Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi)

Ognissanti Altarpiece, tempera on panel, 1518 (Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi)

The Dead Christ with Angels, ca. 1524–27 (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 58.527)

Moses Defending Jethro’s Daughters, oil on canvas, 1523 (Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi); Photo credit: Scala/Art Resource, NY

Deposition, oil on panel, 1521 (Volterra, Pinacoteca Comunale); Photo credit: Scala/Art Resource, NY

Château of Fontainebleau, Galerie François I by Rosso Fiorentino and Francesco Primaticcio, 1532–9; photo credit: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

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