Piero di Cosimo, sometimes know as Piero di Lorenzo, was born in Florence, son of a goldsmith, and apprenticed under the artist Cosimo Rosselli (1439 – 1507), from whom he derived his popular name. He assisted Rosselli in the painting of the Sistine Chapel in 1481.In the first phase of his career, Piero was influenced by the Netherlandish naturalism of Hugo van der Goes (1440 – 1482), whose Portinari Triptych (now at the Spedale of Santa Maria Novella in Florence) helped to lead the whole of Florentine painting into new channels. From him Cosimo acquired the love of landscape and the intimate knowledge of the growth of flowers and of animal life. The manner of Hugo van der Goes is especially apparent in Cosimo’s Adoration of the Shepherds, (Berlin Museum).
He journeyed to Rome in 1482 with his master, Rosselli and proved himself a true child of the Renaissance by depicting subjects of Classical mythology in such pictures as the Venus, Mars, and Cupid, and The Death of Procris. This also includes his Perseus and Andromeda series, of which the painting Perseus Frees Andromeda is now at the Uffizi. Inspired by the Vitruvius', Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (d. 25 B.C.), account of the evolution of man, Cosimo’s mythical compositions show the bizarre presence of hybrid forms of men and animals, or the man learning to use fire and tools. The multitude of nudes in these works shows the influence of Luca Signorelli (1445 – 1523) on Piero's art.
During his lifetime, Cosimo acquired a reputation for eccentricity; reportedly, he was frightened of thunderstorms, and so pyrophobic that he rarely cooked his food. He lived largely on hard-boiled eggs, which he prepared 50 at a time while boiling glue for his artworks. He also resisted any cleaning of his studio, or trimming of the fruit trees of his orchard; he lived, wrote Giorgio Vasari (1511 – 1574), "more like a beast than a man."
If, as Vasari asserts, he spent the last years of his life in gloomy retirement, the change was probably due to the religious reformer, Savonarola (1452 – 1498), under whose influence he turned his attention once more to religious art. The death of his master Rosselli may also have impacted Piero's morose elder years. The Immaculate Conception with Saints, (or Incarnation) at the Uffizi, and the Holy Family, at Dresden, best illustrate the religious fervor to which he was stimulated by the stern preacher.
Cosimo enjoyed a great reputation as a portrait painter: the most famous of his work being the portrait of a Florentine noblewoman, Simonetta Vespucci (1453 – 1476), mistress of Giuliano de Medici (1453 – 1478). According to Vasari, Cosimo excelled in designing pageants and triumphal processions for the pleasure-loving youths of Florence. Cosimo exercised considerable influence upon his fellow pupils on Rosselli’s workshop, such as Albertinelli (1474 – 1515) and Fra Bartolomeo (1472 – 1517). He was the master of the influential Florentine Mannerist, Andrea del Sarto (1486 – 1531).
(This text is adapted from the www.wikipedia.org entry on Piero Cosimo, available under GNU Free Documentation License.)