Son of a painter and decorator at the d'Este court in Ferrara, Italy, Girolamo da Carpi trained in the workshop of a painter whose Ferrarese classicism was influenced by both Lorenzo Costa of Bologna and Raphael in Rome.
Carpi visited Rome in the early 1520s and was in Bologna in 1525. There he developed a smooth, classically correct yet energetic and colorful style. He also evolved a more elegant, detached Mannerist style for his portraits. Five years later, he was working in Ferrara while maintaining ties with patrons in Bologna. In Ferrara, Carpi regularly collaborated with Dosso Dossi and others on decorations for the d'Este family and their court, including frescoes, stage sets, and easel paintings.
When a d'Este Cardinal called him to Rome in 1549 to excavate Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli, Carpi explored his interests in antiquity and architecture and designed some palace gardens. In 1550 he became architect to Pope Julius III, supervising modifications to the Vatican's Villa Belvedere. He returned to Ferrara in 1553.