Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo was also called Girolamo da Brescia, which means from Brescia, Italy. Since he is not known to have lived in the northern Italian town of Brescia, the term probably indicates his family origin. Due to the lack of information about him, scholars have struggled to determine his training and the source of his style. Upon Savoldo's death, his only known student, Paolo Pino, commented, "He has spent his life on few works, and with slight esteem for his name."
A receipt for a painting made for a hospital in Parma places Savoldo there in his early twenties. Shortly thereafter, he applied for membership in the painters' guild of Florence. By the age of forty, he had settled in Venice, where he had his most productive years as a painter. He received commissions for portraits and altarpieces from Francesco Maria Sforza, the ruling duke of Milan, and built a substantial reputation among the Milanese nobility.