Cesare Auguste Detti was born in Spoleto in November 1847. His father was an amateur painter and encouraged Cesare to pursue his interest in art, and in 1862 aged fifteen, Detti enrolled at the Accademia di San Luca in Rome where he studied for the next four years.

During his early career Detti remained in Rome, but also spent a considerable time in Naples towards the end of the 1860s.

In 1876 the artist visited Paris where he met Adolphe Goupil one of the foremost dealers in the city and Goupil undertook to show Detti's work in his gallery on Boulevard Montmartre. The fine quality of the work combined with the romantic and historical subject matter appealed greatly to contemporary taste, and Goupil commissioned engravings of many of Detti's paintings which were then sold to the burgeoning middle classes. During this time Detti was introduced to many other artists of note including Giuseppe de Nittis, whom Goupil also represented. His career continued to blossom in Paris, exhibiting at the Salon des Artistes Français from 1877 and at the Exposition Universelle in 1878.

During the next decade his reputation grew both as a fine artist and an illustrator and exhibitions further afield, particularly in London, showcased his pictures to a wider audience. He was also popular with native Italian collectors and honoured by his home town of Spoleto in 1894 for his contribution to contemporary art.

Detti travelled extensively in the early 1900s with trips to South America and the US, Spain and Italy. He returned to France in 1914 and died the same year.