Rosso Fiorentino, Deposition from the Cross, The Holy Family with the Infant St. John

Rosso Fiorentino (1494–1540): Mannerism (c. 1520s - 1600)

As we delve into the captivating world of art history, one name that stands out prominently is Rosso Fiorentino. Born in 1494 in the vibrant city of Florence, Italy, he would go on to become a key figure in the Mannerist movement, leaving an indelible mark on the art world. Let's explore his life, art style, and some of his most notable works that continue to inspire and captivate art enthusiasts around the globe.

Early Life and Family Background

Rosso Fiorentino, whose birth name was Giovanni Battista di Jacopo di Guasparre, was born in the heart of the Italian Renaissance, Florence. He was brought up in an environment that was steeped in artistic inspiration, thanks to his family's connection with the world of art. Although there is limited information available about his family background, it is clear that his upbringing played a pivotal role in nurturing his artistic talents.

Education and Training

Fiorentino's artistic journey was greatly influenced by his training under the renowned artist Andrea del Sarto. Under del Sarto's guidance, Rosso Fiorentino honed his skills and developed a deep understanding of artistic techniques. This training would serve as a solid foundation for his later exploration of artistic styles.

The Mannerist Art Style

Rosso Fiorentino is celebrated for his contributions to the Mannerist art movement. Mannerism emerged in the early 16th century as a reaction to the harmonious and balanced compositions of the High Renaissance. Mannerist artists embraced distortion, elongation, and exaggeration of forms, creating a sense of complexity and tension in their works. Fiorentino's art embodies these Mannerist principles, characterized by his expressive use of color, dramatic poses, and an innovative approach to composition.

20 Notable Artworks

1. "Deposition from the Cross" (1521)

This masterpiece showcases Fiorentino's ability to convey intense emotion through his brushstrokes. The mournful scene of Christ's body being taken down from the cross is depicted with raw and poignant emotion. The figures' elongated forms and dramatic gestures add to the overall sense of anguish and sorrow.

2. "Resurrection" (1522)

In this dynamic composition, Fiorentino captures the moment of Christ's resurrection with a sense of movement and energy. The figure of Christ rises triumphantly from the tomb, surrounded by swirling drapery and celestial light. The exaggerated forms and vibrant colors emphasize the miraculous nature of the event.

3. "Madonna in Glory with Saints" (1523)

Fiorentino's fascination with complex compositions is evident in this work. The painting features a crowded arrangement of saints and angels surrounding the Madonna in a heavenly scene. The figures' elongated proportions and intricate details showcase Fiorentino's mastery of Mannerist aesthetics.

4. "Allegory of the Holy League" (1529)

In this allegorical work, Fiorentino tackles a historical theme with his characteristic Mannerist style. The painting commemorates the alliance between Pope Clement VII, the Holy Roman Emperor, and various Italian states against the Ottoman Empire. Fiorentino's portrayal of the allegorical figures and their symbolic attributes adds depth to the narrative.

5. "Portrait of a Young Man" (1530s)

Moving beyond religious themes, Fiorentino also excelled in portraiture. In this intriguing portrait, a young man's enigmatic expression and refined attire draw the viewer's attention. The Mannerist influence is evident in the elongated proportions of the figure and the subtle play of light and shadow.

6. "The Dead Christ with Angels" (c. 1526-1528)

Fiorentino's exploration of emotion continues in this poignant depiction of the dead Christ surrounded by grieving angels. The figures' contorted poses and flowing drapery convey a sense of sorrow and reverence. The composition evokes a somber and introspective mood.

7. "Venus and Cupid" (c. 1530-1533)

In this mythological scene, Fiorentino portrays Venus and Cupid in an intimate embrace. The sinuous curves of the figures and the rich color palette contribute to the sensual atmosphere. Fiorentino's treatment of the subject combines elegance with a touch of eroticism.

8. "Holy Family with the Infant St. John" (c. 1525-1527)

Fiorentino's interpretation of the Holy Family deviates from traditional depictions. The elongated forms and graceful poses of Mary, Joseph, and the young St. John create a sense of harmony and spiritual serenity. The landscape in the background adds depth to the composition.

9. "Moses Defending the Daughters of Jethro" (c. 1523-1525)

This narrative painting captures a moment from the story of Moses in the wilderness. Fiorentino's portrayal of the dramatic scene, with Moses defending the young women from hostile shepherds, showcases his ability to infuse tension and movement into his works.

10. "Dead Christ with Angels" (c. 1524-1527)

Fiorentino revisits the theme of Christ's death, this time emphasizing the ethereal presence of angels. The otherworldly figures surround Christ's body with a sense of reverence, and their elongated forms contribute to the overall spiritual atmosphere of the composition.

11. "The Triumph of Death" (c. 1527-1528)

In this haunting and allegorical painting, Fiorentino delves into the theme of mortality. The composition features a skeletal figure of Death wielding a scythe, surrounded by a chaotic scene of destruction. The vivid portrayal of death's inevitability is a testament to Fiorentino's ability to convey complex emotions through his art.

12. "Pietà with Saints" (c. 1530s)

Fiorentino's Pietà is a touching depiction of the Virgin Mary cradling the lifeless body of Christ. The elongated forms and tender expressions of the figures evoke a sense of profound grief and compassion. Surrounding saints add to the spiritual depth of the composition.

13. "St. John the Baptist Preaching" (c. 1523-1524)

This painting captures the charismatic figure of St. John the Baptist as he passionately preaches to a captivated audience. Fiorentino's dynamic composition and expressive gestures convey the intensity of the moment, making the viewer feel like an observer in the midst of the scene.

14. "Adoration of the Magi" (c. 1522-1523)

Fiorentino's interpretation of the Adoration of the Magi presents a richly detailed scene. The elongated figures of the magi and the intricate detailing of their garments showcase Fiorentino's mastery of technique. The composition radiates a sense of awe and reverence.

15. "The Holy Family with St. Elizabeth and the Infant St. John" (c. 1520-1523)

In this tender portrayal of the Holy Family, Fiorentino captures a moment of familial intimacy. The affectionate gestures and the playful interaction between the infant St. John and Christ create a sense of warmth and love. Fiorentino's unique style infuses the scene with a touch of ethereal beauty.

16. "Portrait of a Young Woman" (c. 1520s)

Fiorentino's expertise in portraiture shines through in this captivating depiction of a young woman. The figure's elegant pose, delicate features, and introspective expression make for a compelling character study. The background's muted tones accentuate the subject's allure.

17. "Allegory of Calumny" (c. 1521-1529)

In this allegorical work, Fiorentino takes inspiration from a text by the ancient Greek philosopher Lucian. The painting depicts a complex narrative of Calumny being led by Deceit and accompanied by Envy and Remorse. The intricate details and symbolic figures make this a thought-provoking piece.

18. "The Annunciation" (c. 1522-1523)

Fiorentino's rendition of the Annunciation offers a fresh perspective on the iconic scene. The elongated figure of the Angel Gabriel and the graceful posture of the Virgin Mary infuse the composition with a sense of divine presence. The swirling drapery adds a touch of movement to the scene.

19. "The Marriage of the Virgin" (c. 1523-1524)

In this scene depicting the marriage of Mary and Joseph, Fiorentino showcases his talent for storytelling. The arrangement of figures, their varied expressions, and the architectural details create a harmonious and visually engaging composition.

20. "The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian" (c. 1525-1526)

Fiorentino's depiction of the martyrdom of St. Sebastian is a powerful portrayal of suffering and resilience. The figure of St. Sebastian, riddled with arrows, is rendered with visceral intensity. The contrast between his fragile form and the stark background heightens the emotional impact of the scene.

These twenty artworks merely scratch the surface of Rosso Fiorentino's prolific career and his significant contributions to the world of Mannerist art. His ability to blend emotion, innovation, and technical skill continues to inspire artists and art lovers alike, reminding us of the timeless power of artistic expression.


Rosso Fiorentino's journey through the art world left an indelible mark on the Mannerist movement. His unique style, characterized by elongated forms, expressive gestures, and innovative compositions, challenged artistic norms and captivated audiences with its emotional depth. Through his notable artworks, Fiorentino's legacy lives on, inviting us to explore the complexities of human emotion and the boundless possibilities of artistic expression.


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