He may have trained with Marco Zoppo and was first mentioned as a painter in 1486. His earliest known work is the Felicini Madonna, which is signed and dated 1494. He worked in partnership with Lorenzo Costa, and was influenced by Ercole de' Roberti's and Costa's style, until 1506, when Francia became a court painter in Mantua, after which time he was influenced more by Perugino and Raphael. He himself trained Marcantonio Raimondi and several other artists; he produced niellos, in which Raimondi first learnt to engrave, soon excelling his master, according to Vasari. Raphael's Santa Cecilia is supposed to have produced such a feeling of inferiority in Francia that it caused him to die of depression. However, as his friendship with Raphael is now well-known, this story has been discredited.
- Giorgio Vasari: Le vite dei più eccellenti architetti, pittori et scultori italiani, Florence 1568
- George C. Williamson: Francesco Raibolini, called Francia", London 1901
- Giuseppe Piazzi: Le Opere di Francesco Raibolini, detto il Francia, orefice e pittore. Azzoguidi, Bologna 1925
- Emilio Negro, Nicosetta Roio: Francesco Francia e la sua scuola. Artioli Editore, Modena 1998, ISBN 8877920572
- Sally Hickson: Giovanni Francesco Zaninello of Ferrara and the portrait of Isabella d'Este by Francesco Francia, Renaissance Studies Vol. 23 No. 3 (2009), S. 288–310
- Pope-Hennessy, John & Kanter, Laurence B. (1987). The Robert Lehman Collection I, Italian Paintings. New York, Princeton: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Princeton University Press. ISBN 0870994794. (see index; plate 91)