Taddeo Zuccaro's father taught him to draw, but the flourishing artistic culture of Rome lured him from his home in Sant'Angelo in Vado near Urbino when he was just fourteen. His younger brother Federico Zuccaro later recorded his early career in Rome in a series of twenty drawings—from the rejection from his painter cousin's studio to the study of the High Renaissance masters.
Taddeo Zuccaro borrowed elements from both the High Renaissance style and Mannerism, combining figures of natural proportion and idealized form with intense emotion. Despite his early struggles as an artist, he became one of the most successful painters of the day, flooded with commissions and praised by his peers. When he completed the facade decorations for the Palazzo Mattei in 1548, the artist biographer Giorgio Vasari praised them and his reputation was secure. In 1559 Zuccaro began the decoration of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese's villa at Caprarola, a work which brought him further artistic prestige, life-long economic security, and a reputation as an able administrator of a large, busy studio. He also designed maiolica, trophies, and festival decorations with his brother. After his death in 1564, Federico took over the studio, running it successfully until 1609.