Francesco de' Rossi was the son of a weaver in Florence. At an early age, he chose to pursue his interest in drawing and painting instead of following his father's profession. His first major commission came at age twenty-one from Cardinal Giovanni Salviati, whose name he adopted. At age fourteen, Francesco Salviati trained with one of the leading sculptors in Florence. Five years later, he entered the workshop of his friend Giorgio Vasari, a painter and biographer of artists.
Salviati specialized in elaborate paintings that were typically Mannerist in their depiction of closely packed figures in spirited but physically impossible poses. This style earned him great fame even in France, where he worked for a year. Salviati also made designs for tapestries. His portraits remain notable for their direct characterization of the sitter and richness of color.