(b Florence, 8 Mar. 1494; d Fontainebleau or Paris, 14 Nov. 1540). Florentine painter and decorative artist; the name by which he is known means ‘the red-headed Florentine’. Vasari says that he ‘would not bind himself to any master’ (a story that fits in with his individuality of temperament), but in his youth he learned most from Andrea del Sarto, and together with Andrea's pupil Pontormo (Rosso's friend and close contemporary) he was one of the leading figures in the early development of Mannerism.
His work was highly sophisticated and varied in mood, ranging from the refined elegance of the Marriage of the Virgin (1523, S. Lorenzo, Florence) to the violent energy of Moses Defending the Daughters of Jethro (c.1523, Uffizi, Florence) and to the disquieting intensity of the Deposition (1521, Pinacoteca Communale, Volterra). In 1523 Rosso left Florence for Rome, where he stayed until the Sack of 1527, and he then worked briefly in several Italian towns until 1530, when he was invited to France by Francis I. With Primaticcio he was the most important artist to work on the decoration of the royal palace at Fontainebleau and one of the creators of the distinctive style of French Mannerism associated with the School of Fontainebleau. Many engravings were made from his designs and he had a powerful influence on French art. Vasari, whose biography of Rosso includes an entertaining story about his pet baboon, says that he killed himself in remorse after falsely accusing a friend of stealing money from him; there is no supporting evidence for this story, but nothing to contradict it either.
Text Source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)