As one of Italy's leading altarpiece painter in the late 1500s, Federico Barocci exerted a profound influence on his contemporaries. He moved beyond the linear style of his teacher Battista Franco around 1563, when he discovered Correggio's sfumatoeffects, which made the defining lines of forms appear to dissolve into delicately colored, smoky mists. Barocci's decorations for the Casino of Pope Pius IV at the Vatican used this technique and became so celebrated that they established his reputation as an up-and-coming young painter.
Although his biographer Giovanni Bellori certainly exaggerated when he claimed that Barocci always worked from life, the artist did draw numerous preparatory studies. His diligence did not always please his patrons, however, for they often waited on his commissions.
In 1565 Barocci returned to Urbino for good, claiming that he had been poisoned and working only two hours a day due to constant pain. Yet he continued to invent new compositional strategies, incorporating the viewer into his circle of foreground figures in the Madonna del Popoloof 1579 (Galleria degli Uffizi). The composition's emotional draw had a strong impact on Annibale and Lodovico Carracci and many younger painters.