"…Francesco was always in all his works full of judgment, and well-varied and fertile in imagination, and, what is more, he had a perfect knowledge of design, and had a more beautiful manner than any other painter in Florence at that time, and handled colours with great skill and delicacy."
- Giorgio Vasari, 1568
Salviati’s frescoed wall decorations range from complex, crowded action scenes and allegories to delicate architectural fantasies in the style of ancient Rome. He also created paintings, highly finished portraits, and designs for tapestry and metalwork, leaving many drawings.
Francesco Salviati (Francesco de’Rossi) apprenticed as a goldsmith before studying painting with Giuliano Bugiardini, Roberto Marone, and (from 1529-31) Andrea del Sarto. He took the name of Cardinal Giovanni Salviati, who financed the artist’s study of Michelangelo and Raphael. Salviati’s training in sculpture (with Baccio Bandinelli) and his interest in ancient Roman sculpture gave his art a sculptural quality. He was also influenced by ancient Roman interior decoration (the ‘Golden House’ of Emperor Nero) and by the illusionistic decoration by Giulio Romano at Mantua. He travelled to Rome, Florence, Bologna, Venice, Mantua, and France. His few pupils included Giuseppe Porta (Salviati), who completed Salviati’s Barbarossa fresco after his death.
Seeking a position as court artist, Salviati moved from city to city throughout his career. In Florence, he frescoed scenes from the Life of Furius Camillus (1543-45) at the Palazzo Vecchio. He painted a huge altarpiece of the Deposition (c. 1547; Florence, S. Croce), and designed Life of Joseph tapestries: part of a set on which Pontormo and Bronzino also worked. At Rome, Salviati experimented with illusionist architecture in his Story of David frescoes (c. 1553; Palazzo Sacchetti, Via Giulia), combining it with real architecture in frescoes at the Palazzo Farnese (Sala dei Fasti Farnesiani, 1549-56).These were completed by Taddeo Zuccaro after the artist's death. Salviati visited France in 1554 to create decorations (now destroyed) at the château de Dampierre. He began The Meeting of Alexander III and Frederick Barbarossa (Vatican) by 1562, but did not live to finish it.