Medieval Studies Ristoro d’Arezzo
Ralf Lützelschwab
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0278


The scarce information we have about the life of Ristoro d’Arezzo is obtained from his only surviving work, La composizione del mondo colle sue cascioni. According to the explicit, it was finished in 1282. Ristoro (Restoro in the local phonetic form used at Arezzo) was born in Arezzo at an unknown date in the first decades of the 13th century, when the city was a stimulating intellectual center. He was an adult in 1239, when he viewed a total eclipse of the sun. There has been much speculation about his intellectual and professional background. Based on recent research, it is highly improbable that he was either a professed monk or a Dominican architect. His text is full of analogies taken from the arts of painting, mosaic, goldsmithing, and metallurgy, presenting the world as a huge mosaic waiting to be decoded. It is difficult, however, to try to identify Ristoro with contemporary local artists sharing the same name. To date, none of these ascriptions can be sufficiently proven.

General Overview

A detailed overview of Ristoro’s life and only remaining work is provided in Morino 2006, Morino 2007, and Piciocco 2016. Zancanella 1935 is a monograph dedicated to the interpretation of scientific expressions in Ristoro, but there is no major study of Ristoro that would meet international academic standards, and no collections of articles exclusively dedicated to this author have ever been published. Modern studies on Ristoro began with Narducci 1859. More than a century would pass before Morino 1997 sparked a resurgence of scholarly interest in Ristoro’s life and work. Thorndike 1929 places him in the context of medieval science in general, while Donato 1996, Oliviero 1995, De Robertis 1976, and Wieruszowski 1953 place him in the context of the city of Arezzo’s scientific and cultural importance in particular. Lanza 2017 sheds light on the philosophical background and impact of Ristoro’s treatise.

  • De Robertis, Domenico. “Un monumento della città aretina: La composizione del mondo di Restoro d’Arezzo.” Atti e Memorie dell’Accademia Petrarca di Lettere, Arti e Scienze di Arezzo 42 (1976): 109–128.

    The author positions Ristoro’s work in the learned world of 13th-century Arezzo, showing how much intellectual potential the city’s inhabitants had and how stimulating the cultural scene in Ristoro’s lifetime was.

  • Donato, Maria Monica. “Un ‘savio depentore’ fra ‘scienza de le stelle’ e ’sutilità’ dell’antico: Restoro d’Arezzo, le arti e il sarcofago romano di Cortona.” In Studi in onore del Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz per il suo centenario (1897–1997). Edited by Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, 51–78. Monografico di Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, serie IV, Quaderni 1–2. Pisa, Italy: Scuola normale superiore, 1996.

    The author explores the “first original scientific text in our language” in order to show not only how important works of art were for Ristoro, but also to prove that he himself was entitled to be called an “artist.” To this end, every single biographical notice in Ristoro’s text, considered to be the most important contribution to the genre of Kunstliteratur before Giotto, is analyzed.

  • Lanza, Lidia. “Philosophie von Laien.” In Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie: Die Philosophie des Mittelalters, Band 4: 13. Jahrhundert. Edited by Alexander Brungs, Vilem Mudroch, and Peter Schultheiss, 1002–1010. Basel, Switzerland: Schwabe Verlag, 2017.

    Analysis of Ristoro’s philosophical background and insight into his handling of textual authorities.

  • Morino, Alberto. “Restoro nella cultura scientifica e artistica del Duecento aretino.” In 750 anni degli statuti universitari aretini: Atti del convegno internazionale su origini, maestri, discipline e ruolo culturale dello “studium” di Arezzo (Arezzo, 16–18 febbraio 2005). Edited by Francesco Stella, 225–244. Firenze, Italy: SISMEL Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2006.

    This is an overview of the main lines of Ristoro’s work, life, and ideas, with a special emphasis on the hypothesis that early Italian literature, with its linguistic focus on the dialect of Florence, might have developed differently if the Ghibellines of Arezzo had not been defeated by the Guelphs of Florence in the battle of Campaldino in 1289.

  • Morino, Alberto, ed. La composizione del mondo con le sue cascioni. By Ristoro d’Arezzo. Parma, Italy: Guanda, 1997.

    The most reliable critical edition with rich commentary based on Morino’s earlier edition of Ristoro’s text in 1976 (Florence: Accademia della Crusca).

  • Morino, Alberto, ed. La composizione del mondo con le sue cascioni. By Ristoro d’Arezzo. Trento, Italy: La Finestra, 2007.

    New edition with up-to-date commentary.

  • Narducci, E., ed. La composizione del mondo di Ristoro d’Arezzo: Testo italiano del 1282. Rome, 1859.

    The first edition of Ristoro’s text, with an almost complete identification of sources and rich introduction. Reprint, Bologna, Italy: Forni, 1970.

  • Oliviero, Adriana. “La composizione dei cieli in Restoro d’Arezzo e in Dante.” In Dante e la Scienza. Edited by Patrick Boyde and Vittorio Russo, 351–362. Ravenna, Italy: Longo, 1995.

    Based on Ristoro’s basic assumption of a strong link between the description of the world and its contemplation and admiration, the article describes the broad typological lines of Ristoro’s scientific approach to the “mirabile sostanza del cielo” (the admirable substance of the heavens) with its “mirabili operazioni.” An important contribution to the decoding of medieval encyclopedism.

  • Piciocco, Michele. “Ristoro d’Arezzo.” In Dizionario biografico degli Italiani. Vol. 87. Edited by Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 673–676. Torino, Italy: Stamperia Artistica Nazionale, 2016.

    A thorough, succinct, and trustworthy mise à jour of the research on Ristoro’s life and work. The best lexicon entry available.

  • Thorndike, Lynn. Science and Thought in the Fifteenth Century: Studies in the History of Medicine and Surgery, Natural and Mathematical Science, Philosophy and Politics. New York: Columbia University Press, 1929.

    DOI: 10.7312/thor92730

    A collection of essays not only on science in the 15th century, but also on its development in preceding centuries. Intended for readers prepared to delve deeply and carefully, it includes reflections on the role and importance of science in the 13th century in general, and on Ristoro d’Arezzo and his impact on other writers in particular (pp. 195–232).

  • Wieruszowski, Helene. “Arezzo as Center of Learning and Letters in the Thirteenth Century.” Traditio 9 (1953): 31–61.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0362152900003767

    A still useful overview of Arezzo’s significance as a place of higher studies in the Duecento.

  • Zancanella, Angelo. Scienza e magia ai tempi di Ristoro d’Arezzo e di Dante. Perugia, Italy: Regia Università Italiana per Stranieri di Perugia, 1935.

    The volume aims to present conceptions of science and magic found in various medieval Italian treatises, and to contribute to a better understanding of Ristoro d’Arezzo. This is realized in chapters IV and V with general remarks about Ristoro’s work and an evaluation of its “scientific value.”

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