Very little is known about Pietro Vanucci Perugino’s early life. Scholars believe he was born between 1446 and 1452, and there’s still debate if he was born into a wealthy family or fought his way out of poverty. He was born in the city of Citta Della Pieve, Italy. His nickname, “Perugino” states that he was from the town of Perugia. Pietro probably studied painting at one of the workshops in Perugia, such as those of Fiorenzo di Lorenzo or Bartolomeo Caporali.
According to Vasari, Perugino was apprenticed to Andrea del Verrocchio’s workshop alongside several future distinguished artists, such as Domenico Ghirlandaio, Filippino Lippi, Lorenzo di Credi, and Leonardo da Vinci, among others. It is believed that Perugino had perspective lessons under Piero della Francesca. His apprenticeship almost certainly ended in 1472, as he was enrolled at the Guild of St. Luke as a master. Although he was very talented, Pietro was not very enthusiastic about his work. Perugino stands as one of the earliest Italian artists that thoroughly practiced oil painting, for most of his contemporaries used mainly tempera.
By 1480, Perugino was reasonably recognized, as he was summoned to Rome by Pope Sixtus IV and commissioned to execute frescoes at the Sistine Chapel, a highly relevant commission at the time. The frescoes he completed at the Chapel included the Baptism of Christ, Moses's Journey into Egypt and the Circumcision of his Son Eliezer, and the Delivery of the Keys to Saint Peter. He also painted the altar wall with the Nativity, the Assumption, and Moses in the Bulrushes, which would be later destroyed in order to make space for the famous Last Judgement by Michelangelo.
By the turn of the century, Pietro Perugino was rather well-known and had several apprentices. Scholars believe that Raphael was Perugino’s pupil during a period of his boyhood, and who possibly helped on some Perugino’s artwork.
At some point, Perugino was summoned by Pope Julius II to paint a room at the Incendio del Borgo at the Vatican Museum. However, the Pope would choose a prominent younger competitor, his once-pupil, Raphael.
Perugino’s last frescoes were executed in churches and monasteries in the cities of Trevi, and the Province of Perugia.
Pietro Perugino died in the city of Fontignano.