Medieval Studies Francesco da Barberino
Maria Cristina Panzera
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 September 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 September 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0304


Tuscan writer Francesco da Barberino (b. c. 1264–d.1348) deserves special attention in medieval literature and art history for his illustrated didactic treatises teaching virtues and good manners to men and women—respectively, Documenti d’Amore (DA) and Reggimento e costumi di donna. Largely underestimated, his contribution to the intellectual movement referred to by Roberto Weiss as “Tuscan pre-humanism” (together with Dante, Guido Cavalcanti, Geri d’Arezzo, Cino de Pistoia, and others), still awaits in-depth studies. Not to be confused with the younger Francesco da Barberino, the son of the notary “ser Nardo,” producing many copies of Dante’s Comedy, known as Danti dei Cento—see Sandro Bertelli, “I codici di Francesco di ser Nardo da Barberino,” Rivista di studi danteschi 3 (2003): 408–421. Our Francesco was eighty-three years old when the other finished his copy of Divine Comedy in the wonderful Codex Laurenziano Pluteo 90 sup. 125 in Florence, indicating the date 1347 in its colophon. A notary formed in Bologna’s University and then working for the bishops of Florence, the author of Documenti d’Amore had an encyclopedic culture, including Latin, Italian, and French languages and literatures. His works can illustrate the rise of lay scholars in Italian universities and cites, contributing to the development of vernacular poetry as well to the vulgarization trend (volgarizzamenti) in Florence under the influence of Brunetto Latini and his disciple Bono Giamboni. Didactic-allegorical form permitted him to leave to his public a prophetic message inspired by a deep religious conception of life, probably marked by Franciscan influence. The defense of Christian orthodoxy aimed his activity also in the fields of public painting and books illustration: texts and pictures of his own invention appeared in some lost frescoes in the Episcopal palaces in Florence and Treviso, as well as conceiving all the iconographic subjects of his works. Recently found and studied, his book of prayer named Officiolo is also richly illustrated with religious as well as profane images.

General Overviews

Thomas 1883 is a deep study of Francesco’s work, reproducing many passages of the Latin commentary of Documenti d’Amore, especially proving his interest in French culture, namely Old Occitan lyric and didactic poetry (ensenhamens). Ortiz 1948 replaced Francesco in the context of medieval didactic tradition in Latin language. The Documenti d’Amore can be considered among the first Italian “author’s books,” as pointed out by Petrucci 1984: all the material and textual elements of this book, such as the layout, the painted ornaments for chapters or paragraphs, the illuminated miniatures, the instructions for painters, and so on, were planned and supervised by the author. Jacobsen 1986 highlights the influence of legal culture in Documenti’s conception. Examining the place of law and science in Francesco’s works, Panzera 2016 focuses on Francesco’s reaction against Aristotelism, establishing the link with the condemnation of Averroism by the bishop of Paris Etienne Tempier in 1277. This led the author to select his authorities particularly in the Neoplatonist trend represented by William of Conches (b. c. 1090–d. after 1154) and the School of Chartres, as well as by Vincent de Beauvais, who wrote his encyclopedia before the massive diffusion of Aristotelian naturalism. The 1277 condemnation also included Andrea Cappellano’s De Amore, thus suggesting to Francesco to revise the place of God Love in Christian thought for his Documenti d’Amore. Studies on texts and images and on artistic aspects will be examined under the section Illuminations.

  • Ciociola, Claudio. “Francesco da Barberino.” In Storia della Letteratura Italiana. Vol. 3, Il Trecento. By Claudio Ciociola, 423–430. Rome: Salerno Editrice, 1995.

    A short and valuable summary of Francesco’s life and work, with bibliography.

  • Jacobsen, Eric. “Francesco da Barberino: Man of Law and Servant of Love.” Analecta Romana, Instituti Danici 25 (1986): 371–392.

    First part of a thorough essay, the first in English, including many citations of Latin glosse translated and some miniature’s reproductions. Continued in Analecta Romana, Instituti Danici 26 (1986): 75–106.

  • Ortiz, Ramiro. Francesco da Barberino e la letteratura didattica neolatina. Rome: Signorelli, 1948.

    Now outdated; focused on thematic relations and chronology between the two didactic works and on women’s education.

  • Panzera, Maria Cristina. Francesco da Barberino tra Andrea Cappellano e Averroè: Poesia, immagini, profetismo. Alessandria, Italy: Edizioni dell’Orso, 2016.

    Provides a scholar overview on scientific, philosophical, and religious matters, based on Panzera’s PhD thesis for the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa, 1997. Discusses the use of science and medicine for women’s instruction in Reggimento and offers new interpretations regarding the structure of Documenti d’Amore, the relationship between Latin and vernacular texts, the general concept of knowledge, and his limits for the human mind, suggesting a Franciscan influence (namely Saint Bonaventure).

  • Petrucci, Armando. “Minuta, autografo, libro d’autore.” In Il libro e il testo (Urbino 20–23 settembre 1982). Edited by Cesare Questa and Renato Raffaelli, 397–419. Urbino, Italy: Università degli studi di Urbino, Italy, 1984.

    Provides an overview of medieval autograph manuscripts by Italian writers, placing Francesco’s DA among the first known examples.

  • Thomas, Antoine. Francesco da Barberino et la littérature provençale en Italie au Moyen Age. Paris, France: Thorin (Bibliothèque des Écoles françaises d’Athènes et de Rome), 1883.

    The first and still valuable study embracing the whole production of the author. Thomas particularly studied all passages in the Latin commentary of Documenti d’Amore where Francesco cites the troubadours, indeed a very large list of twenty-one poets (the monk of Montaudon, Guilhem Azemar, Peire Vidal, Peirol, Raimon de Miraval, etc.), including citations of now lost authors, like Raimon d’Anjou, Hugolin de Forcalquier, and Lady Blanchemain.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.