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Both painter and architect, Santi di Tito trained in Florence with Agnolo Bronzino; he followed his Mannerist teacher only in his penchant for polished forms and precise draftsmanship. After 1558, Santi painted frescoes in Rome and absorbed Raphael's classicism. Upon his return to Florence in 1564, he joined the Accademia del Disegno, whose members regularly worked with Giorgio Vasari on court commissions. Vasari wanted Mannerism--complex poses, more strident coloring, more gracefulness, and more exaggeration--so Santi compromised his own simple, naturalistic style.
After Vasari's death in 1574, Santi worked more often for churches, confraternities, and private clients. His return to Raphael, clear narrative, and the sincere religious sentiment of the Early Renaissance fulfilled the Counter-Reformation Church's demand that art both instruct and move the most humble spectator. In his late period, he used richer color and more realistic light and shade.
Santi was an acclaimed teacher, and many young Florentine artists entered his workshop. He designed villas, a palazzo, a house, a convent, and a church facade. His legacy includes altarpieces and frescoes for the Church and devotional paintings, mythological scenes, and portraits for private patrons. At his death in 1602, the Accademia considered him Florence's leading artist.