By Alexis Culotta

Late Renaissance painter Cesare Aretusi was born 1 September 1549. His early biography is veiled in uncertainty; some, for example, have speculated on the date of his birth, and others have tried to forge a connection between Cesare and fellow Modenese artist Pellegrino Aretusi (1460-1523), suggesting that the latter was the father of the former, yet the evidence for such a connection remains elusive.  

Nevertheless, common consensus agrees that Aretusi was born in Modena and received his earliest training with Bartolommeo Ramenghi (1484-1542), a former student of Raphael who established his studio in Bologna following study in Rome. Aretusi worked on several prominent public commissions, including the choir representation of The Giving of the Keys in the Church of San Pietro in Bologna, which was a collaboration with colleague Giambattista Fiorini. He also Aretusi was perhaps best known, however, for his extensive work as a portraitist. Among his likenesses is that of Ranuccio Farnese, the Duke of Parma, who appointed Aretusi as his court painter. 


Andrea Emiliani, “ARETUSI, Cesare.” Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, Vol. 4 (1962). 

Stefano Ticozzi, Dizionario degli architetti, scultori, pittori, intagliatori in rame ed in pietra, coniatori di medaglie, musicisti, niellatori, intarsiatori d’ogni età e d’ogni nazione (Milan: Schiepatti, 1830-1833), 75. 

Giovanni Domenico Campiglia, etching after a self-portrait of Cesare Aretusi, c. 1790.

Portrait of Duke Cesare d’Este. Oil on canvas. Modena, Galleria Estense. 

Portrait of Alfonso II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara. Oil on canvas.  

Portrait of Ranuccio Farnese (attributed). Oil on canvas. Parma, Galleria Nazionale di Parma. 

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