Born in Venice in about 1480, at a young age the artist chose to move to Treviso, where he lived from 1503 to 1506, even though he went frequently to Venice.
In Treviso he came under the patronage of bishop Bernardo De Rossi from Parma, who formed a humanistic circle of thinkers studying philosophy, religion, architecture and literature. Here he soon reached artistic and intellectual maturity and received profitable commissions.
In October 1506 Lorenzo Lotto was in the Marche region, where he began to work on his great polyptych commissioned by the Dominican Friars of Recanati. Characterised by a great amount of readings and cultural references, this painting constitutes the visual synthesis of his education process and closes the cycle of works he made in his youth.
In 1508 he was in Rome, where he painted the rooms of Julius II's new apartment in Vatican.
His ideological and stylistic assumptions were undoubtedly challenged by the direct comparison with Raphael, who was entrusted with the responsibility of painting the Vatican rooms since October 1509.
From 1509 to 1516 his whereabouts were hard to track down.
On the 18th of October 1511, in Jesi he signed the agreement with the confraternity of the Buon Gesù to work on the “Deposition”, whereas in Recanati he accepted to paint the “Transfiguration” and “Saint James the Pilgrim” for the Confraternita dei Nobili.
During the following ten years he was in Bergamo. This was the happiest and most creative period of his life after the doubts which had arisen in his mind when he worked in Rome.
At the end of 1525, after a 20-year absence, he decided to go back to Venice, where promising Titian and his joyful and sensual painting precluded him from receiving commissions.
Luckily the province towns guaranteed him some work. He painted the cartoons for the intarsia panels for the choir stalls of the church Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo, and painted several altarpieces he had been commissioned during a brief stay in the Marche region. In 1531 he worked on the two paintings of “Saint Sebastian” and “Saint Roch” for a church in Castelplanio (now preserved in Berlin). The following years he worked on the polyptych of Saint Lucy for a church in Jesi, on “Madonna of the Rosary” for a church in Cingoli, on “Saint Roch”, “Saint Christopher” and “Saint Sebastian” for Loreto and finally on the impressive “Crucifixion” for a church in Monte San Giusto.
In 1538 the painter was in Ancona, where he started to write the notebook preserved in Loreto and titled "Libro di spese diverse", in which he noted down facts about his life and work: the commissions received, the paintings made and sold, the money received and to be received.
In 1547 he painted the “Assumption” for the church of Mogliano and two years after he moved again to Ancona, where he brought another altarpiece of the “Assumption” for the church of San Francesco alle scale.
Alone and with no money, in 1552 he retired definitely to Loreto where the governor of the Holy Sanctuary guaranteed him board, lodging and the possibility of painting in the monastery. After two years he decided to become oblate (a sort of lay brother) at the almost exclusive service of the Santa Casa (Holy Sanctuary).
In the last years Lorenzo Lotto painted other works. In particular, for the choir of the sanctuary of Loreto he made a series of paintings depicting some stories of Christ's life, helped by some pupils he had been teaching in his shop in Loreto. In those last years he worked also on the Amici altarpiece for the cathedral of Jesi, which unfortunately went missing. The “Presentation in the Temple” is his last work of art, a beautiful final painting which remained unfinished.
The day of his death is not known precisely, but it seems fitting that Lorenzo Lotto died between September 1556 and July 1557, when the administrators of the Santa Casa received three florins and five bolognini for the sale of a small mattress owned by Lorenzo Lotto.