Gaudenzio was born to Franchino Ferrari at Valduggia in Valsesia in the Duchy of Milan. Valduggia is now in the Province of Vercelli in Piedmont. He is said to have first learned the art of painting at Vercelli from Gerolamo Giovenone. He subsequently studied in Milan, in the school of the Cathedral artisan Giovanni Stefano Scotti, and perhaps alongside Bernardino Luini. Circa 1504 he proceeded to Florence. It was once thought that he later moved to Rome. He died in Milan.
His initial pictorial style may be considered as derived mainly from the old Milanese school, which had imbibed the classic influence of Leonardo and pupils such as Bramantino. However, the provincial impetus was also strong, as is demonstrated in his emotive work at the Sacro Monte of Varallo.
By 1513, Gaudenzio had depicted the life of Christ in a fresco at Santa Maria delle Grazie in Varallo Sesia. He returned to work in the chapels of the Sacro Monte di Varallo by 1524. The chapels are dispersed over a hilltop sanctuary, connected by a winding path, and containing a combination of diorama and wax museum with life-size terracotta figures. He executed his most memorable work, a fresco of the Crucifixion (pictured right), with a multitude of figures, no less than twenty-six of them being modelled in actual relief, and coloured; on the vaulted ceiling are lamenting angels. The figures include goitrous bestial assailants.
There are other works which show flashes of innovation such as the crowded chorus decorating duomo of Santa Maria dei Miracoli in Saronno or his fresco of St Anne. This painting shows the overlap of Milanese realism and Venetian colourism.
He was a very prolific painter, distinguished by strong animation. In general character, his work suggests more of the 15th than the 16th century. His subjects were always religious. Andrea Solario, Giovanni Battista Cerva, Gian Paolo Lomazzo, and Fermo Stella were his principle students.
- Sant'Anna Altarpiece (Galleria Sabauda and National Gallery, London)
- Pietà, in the Royal Gallery, Turin
- St Catharine Miraculously Saved from the Torture of the Wheel, Brera Gallery, Milan
- Frescoes in church of Santa Maria della Pace, Milan.
- Virgin with Angels and Saints under an Orange Tree, Cathedral, Vercelli
- Last Supper, Refectory of San Paolo
- Birth of the Virgin, Annunciation, Visitation, Adoration of the Shepherds and Kings, Crucifixion, Assumption of the Virgin (1532–1535), Church of San Cristoforo
- St Paul Meditating, Louvre, Paris
- Presentation in the Temple, Christ among the Doctors, History of Christ (1507), Convent of the Minorites, Varallo.
- Adoration (after 1527), Santa Maria di Loreto, near Varallo
- Glory of Angels (1535), Dome of the Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Saronno
- Scourging of Christ, Ecce Homo and Crucifixion (1542), Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan
- Pinacoteca di Brera: guida ufficiale edited by Luisa Arrigoni, Emanuela Daffra, Pietro C. Marani, page 147.
- public domain: Rossetti, William Michael (1911). "Ferrari, Gaudenzio". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 10 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 284–285. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the
- (Freedberg, p. 393)
- Abbaye de Saint Michel ou Sacra di San Michele, Sacro Monte de Varallo dans le Piémont italien Archived 2006-03-28 at the Wayback Machine
- Sacro Monte di Varallo – Vercellink
- St Anne Consoled by a Woman by FERRARI, Gaudenzio
- Freedberg, Sydney J. (1993). Pelican History of Art (ed.). Painting in Italy, 1500–1600. Penguin Books Ltd. pp. 392–397.
- Carlone, Mariagrazioa (1999). "Gaudenzio Ferrari and the Musical Statues in Varallo". Music in Art: International Journal for Music Iconography. 24 (1–2): 89–100. ISSN 1522-7464.
- HALTADEFINIZIONE by HAL9000 S.r.l. – High Resolution Photos, an 8.6GP Scan of the Parete Gaudenziana that was the largest digital photo in the world when it was produced
- Gaudenzio Ferrari at www.wga.hu, Web Gallery of Art