Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi

Tignosi, Niccolò

Born: 30 March 1402, Foligno
Died: 14 September 1474, Pisa
  • David A. LinesEmail author
Living reference work entry

Latest version View entry history

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_361-2


Niccolò Tignosi was a physician and professor of medicine active in Tuscany (especially Florence) in the second and third quarters of the fifteenth century. More or less at the same time in which Johannes Argyropoulos began his famous activity of interpreting Aristotle there, Tignosi published a commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, which received a rather hostile response from his contemporaries, prompting him to defend himself in a very interesting opusculum. He also wrote on Aristotelian logic and psychology and penned a series of historical and political treatises, displaying a desire to remain close to the Medici family. His works point to the numerous intersections between humanism and scholasticism in Renaissance Florence.


Posterior Analytics Artistic Theory Relative Defense Aristotelian Logic Hostile Response 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Alternate Names


Little is known about the education of Niccolò (the son of Iacobus, a doctor of law), who hailed from Foligno, but whose university studies may have taken place in Bologna, Siena, and/or Perugia (the following sketch is based mainly on Sensi 1971–1972; see also Thorndike 1927, 1929, pp. 161–170; Rotondò 1958; Barale Hennemann 1974, pp. 33–111; Field 1988, pp. 136–158). Rotondò maintains that he was taught by Ugo Benzi and Gaspare Sighicelli in Siena, but several times Tignosi describes himself as a student of Paul of Venice (who taught in Perugia from November 1424 and in Siena in 1427). For at least 1 year (1426–1427), Tignosi taught logic in Bologna. In 1428, he was engaged in military activities in Milan. We then find him studying and teaching medicine in Perugia (1428 to c. 1438). He also taught medicine (“theorica”) and philosophy in Florence from c. 1439 (an important time in Florence because of the presence of the Church Council there between January 1439 and September 1443). Probably early on, he lectured there on Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics, for which he requested a fresh translation from his humanist friend Giovanni Tortelli. Shortly afterward, Tignosi moved to Arezzo, where by 1442 he had married Angela, the daughter of Count Domenico de Marsuppini and had acquired Aretine citizenship. A new period of teaching in Florence started around 1450 and lasted until 1464. During this time, Tignosi authored the Expugnatio Constantinopolitana, published his commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (with relative defense treatise), and supposedly instructed Marsilio Ficino. (The evidence for the latter, uncomfortably slender, is summarized in Field 1988, p. 140, n. 43.) He was called to teach in Arezzo in 1464 (Vasoli 2006); we then find him in Todi (1468–1471) and in Narni (1472) before his teaching career resumes in Pisa (where the Florentine studio had just been transferred) in 1473–1474 (the year of his death). To this later period belong Tignosi’s remaining works, including De origine Fulginatum, De ideis, and the commentary on De anima, completed shortly before his death.

Although it is difficult to reconstruct Tignosi’s intellectual network outside of Florence (except for his ties to Paul of Venice), in Florence he had numerous friendly contacts (deserving further exploration) with the intellectual avant-garde, including Tortelli, Poggio Bracciolini, Benedetto Accolti, Carlo Marsuppini, as well as Donato Acciaiuoli and Ficino. It is unclear what Tignosi’s relationship was, if any, with Johannes Argyropoulos, who in February 1457 started lecturing publicly on Aristotle’s Ethics in Florence and whose interpretation Tignosi opposed in the dedication letter to his Ethics.

Impact and Legacy

Other than being (supposedly) Ficino’s teacher, Tignosi is best known for a controversy that erupted in Florence, probably between 1461 and 1464, after the publication of his Latin commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. The commentary (studied in Rotondò 1958, pp. 228–233; Sensi 1971–1972, pp. 385–388; Field 1988, pp. 140–145, 148–150; Kraye 1995, pp. 101–102; Lines 1999a, b, 2001, 2002, pp. 192–206, 490–491) is based on Leonardo Bruni’s translation of the text (1416/1417), reflecting Tignosi’s interest in recent translations (used also for his commentaries on the Posterior Analytics and De anima). The presentation copy, dedicated to Piero de’ Medici, must date to 1461, when Piero was the gonfaloniere, but the work was probably written earlier. The Commenta is unusual in terms of its approach. While treating philosophical issues, the work is obviously directed to a mixed audience, a good portion of which has no formal training in philosophy. It therefore explains fairly elementary philosophical concepts while also offering elements that make the work less scholastic. Indeed, Tignosi eschews quaestiones, neglects the traditional practice of divisio textus (i.e., of breaking down the text into its constitutive elements), occasionally uses Greek, and provides abundant historical examples (from both classical and contemporary times) as well as quotations from poetry (Kraye 1995, pp. 101–102). It is thus quite different from many contemporary Florentine commentaries on the same work (e.g., Guglielmo Becchi, Donato Acciaiuoli). In terms of its main sources, it depends strongly on Averroes, Albertus Magnus, and St. Augustine (Lines 2002, p. 193).

Tignosi evidently misjudged the expectations of his commentary’s audience; reactions to it were strong. Tignosi was forced to defend himself against his detractors (which included both humanists and scholastics) in a treatise entitled Nicolai Fulginatis ad Cosmam Medicem in illos qui mea in Aristotelis commentaria criminantur opusculum (see Rotondò 1958, pp. 233–241; Sensi 1971–1972, pp. 388–395; Lines 2002, pp. 206–214). In this work, Tignosi had to answer both for his practice of providing strongly philosophical explanations of the text and for his use of historical examples and poetical quotations. The work, which is sophisticated and deeply interesting, offers a glimpse into the cultural climate of Florence in a period in which the tastes of some tended to be very much confined either to literature and history or to philosophy. Tignosi presents himself as wishing to bridge the two: his appeals to poetry and history are actually, he says, an imitation of what Aristotle himself had done. His example is not, however, one that is immediately embraced by his contemporaries, although it makes for interesting comparisons with the approach of the Frenchman Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples a few decades later (Kraye 1995; Lines 1999b, p. 266, 2007, p. 289) and with that of Bernardo Segni in 1550 (Lines 2013, pp. 845, 852, 856–858).

Other aspects of Tignosi’s work that have been examined but merit further attention include his exaltation of medicine over law and his “philosophy of ends” (Field 1988, pp. 142–158); his views of friendship, his relationship to the Medici family, and his political statements (Sère 2007, pp. 373–381); his theory of the soul and presumed Averroism (on the basis of his De anima commentary, published in 1551, it seems that Tignosi accepted some of Averroes’ views; see Hasse 2004); and his relationship to Florentine Platonism (his treatise De ideis suggests that Tignosi was opposed to the kind of reconciliation of Plato and Aristotle attempted by Donato Acciaiuoli; for comments and historiographical summary, see Sensi 1971–1972, pp. 414–422). Finally, interesting work has been done (but much more remains to be explored) on Tignosi’s work in relationship to artistic theory and practice in Quattrocento Florence (Pfisterer 1999, 2001), a subject that his writings (particularly the Ethics commentary) mention fairly often.

Tignosi’s status as a figure of some (if minor) prominence in Florence seems indicated by his appearance as a fictional character (“Niccolò”) in Bracciolini’s dialog on the relative merits of medicine and civil law in the second part of his Historia disceptativa convivialis (1450). He is possibly also the “Nicolaus medicus” of Lorenzo Pisano’s Dialogi quinque (late 1450s or early 1460s) (Mercati 1938, pp. 284–285). Field underlines his possible influence on Bracciolini’s legal humanism and on Ficino’s philosophical viewpoints but is doubtful of his broader significance after the 1450s (Field 1988, p. 155). Further studies will confirm the contours of his legacy.



Primary Literature

  1. Tignosi, N. Ad clarissimum virum Iohannem Medicem de laudibus Cosmi patris eius, seu desceptatio Perusiae an priscorum hominum mores et ingenia antecellant viventium. Two MSS: Florence, BLaur., Plut LIII, 11 (XV), ff. 42–60 and LIV, 10 (XV), ff. 60–73; datable shortly before 1460 (Rotondò 1958, 226, n. 6; Sensi 1971–72, 382–85; edition on 447–65).Google Scholar
  2. Tignosi, N. Comentum utilissimum, sive opus sensus compositi et divisi compilatum a magistro Nicolao de Fulgineo artium ac medicine doctore excellentissimo. One MS: Padua, BCapitolare nella Curia vescovile, D.54 (XV), ff. 44v-48v. Undated, but possibly not much after the Posterior Analytics commentary (Sensi 1971–72, 374–75).Google Scholar
  3. Tignosi, N. Commenta in Ethicorum libros. Four MSS: Florence, BLaur., Plut. LXXVI, 48 (XV), 233 ff.; Plut. LXXVI, 49 (XV), 198 ff. (dedication copy to Piero de’ Medici); Florence, BNC, Gino Capponi, 314 (XV), 205 ff. (now missing Books V and X); Perugia, BCom. Augustea, L, 79 (XV), 279 ff. On the basis of the dedication, Plut. LXXVI, 49 is datable c. 1461, but the work itself is almost certainly earlier (on the MSS see Sensi 1971–72, 385; Lohr 1972, 306; Barale Hennemann 1974, 218; Field 1988, 140–41; Lines 1999a, 144, n. 14; Lines 1999b, 273–74; Lines 2002, 490–91).Google Scholar
  4. Tignosi, N. Commenta in libros De anima. One MS: Florence, BLaur., Plut. LXXXII, 17 (XV), 253 folios. Dedicated to Lorenzo de’ Medici; prepared 1474. Printed posthumously in Florence, 1551 (Lohr 1972, 306; Rotondò 1958, 244–55; Sensi 1971–72, 406–14).Google Scholar
  5. Tignosi, N. Commentary (untitled and undated) on Aristotle’s Posterior analytics. One MS: Florence, BRicc., 110 (XV), 198 folios (Rotondò 1958, 221–25; Sensi 1971–72, 370–74; Field 1988, 139). From the late 1430s according to Rotondò.Google Scholar
  6. Tignosi, N. De origine Fulginatum. Five MSS: Rome, BNC, 11 (XV); Foligno, Biblioteca Iacobilli, A.II.5, ff. 118–126; A.V.11, ff. 102–114; B.VI.3, ff. 39–62; Foligno, BCom. Fondo Faloci, ms. 136 (XVIII ex.), ff. 12–30v. Possibly datable to the 1460s (Sensi 1971–72, 369 and 395–400; edition on 483–95).Google Scholar
  7. Tignosi, N. In illos qui mea in Aristotelis comentaria criminantur opusculum (dedicated to Cosimo de’ Medici; before August 1464). Two MSS: Florence, BLaur. Plut. XLVIII, 37 (XV), 27 folios; Florence, BNC Conv. Soppr. C.8.1800 (XV), ff. 2r–16v (see Lohr 1972, 306; Sensi 1971–72, 388–95; edition on 466–82).Google Scholar
  8. Tignosi, N. Libellus ubi disputatum est quare nascentes octavo mense plurimum subito moriuntur (lost; Sensi 1971–72, 395, n. 36).Google Scholar
  9. Tignosi, N. Opusculum de ideis. Two MSS: Florence, BLaur., Plut. LXXXII, 22 (XV), 42 folios; Pesaro, BOliveriana, ms. 606 (Thorndike 1929, edition on 332–63; Rotondò 1958, 218, n. 1 and 242–48; Berti 1967; Sensi 1971–72, 403–06).Google Scholar
  10. Tignosi, N. Quod tarde bella suscipienda sint. Three MSS: Foligno, Biblioteca Iacobilli, A.II.5, ff. 126v–136v; A.V.11, ff. 119–136v; Foligno, BCom., F. 163, ff. 31–57v. The works follows the De origine fulginatum in the first ms.; possibly datable to the 1460s (Sensi 1971–72, 369 and edition on 432–46).Google Scholar
  11. Tignosi, N. Untitled reply to a philosophical query to Tignosi from Perugia ‘Si ad generationem rerum naturalium hydeas concurrere, ut Plato sensit, absonum debeat reputari’. Tignosi’s reply, on 10 Jan. 1471, while he was in Todi, is directed to Nicola compater. One MS: Vatican City, BAV, fondo Vat. Lateran. 3896 (XV), ff. 79–86 (Thorndike 1929, edition on 308–31; Berti 1967; Sensi 1971–72, 400–03).Google Scholar
  12. Tignosi, N. Expugnatio Constantinopolitana. One MS: Vatican City, BAV, Urb. Lat. 923 (XV), ff. 28v–41. Written c. 1455 (Sensi 1971–72, 378–82; edition on 423–31; selections with Italian translation in A. Pertusi (ed.), Testi inediti e poco noti sulla caduta di Costantinopoli (Bologna 1983), 102–21).Google Scholar

Secondary Literature

  1. Barale Hennemann, I. 1974. Aspekte der aristotelischen Tradition in der Kultur der Toskana des XV. Jahrhunderts: Der philosophische Unterricht an der Universität Pisa von 1474–1502. Pisa: Editrice tecnico scientifica.Google Scholar
  2. Berti, E. 1967. La dottrina platonica delle idee nel pensiero di Niccolò Tignosi da Foligno. In Filosofia e cultura in Umbria tra Medioevo e Rinascimento (Atti del IV Convegno di Studi Umbri), 533–565. Gubbio: Centro di studi umbri presso la Casa di Sant’Ubaldo in Gubbio.Google Scholar
  3. Field, A. 1988. The origins of the Platonic academy of Florence. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Hasse, D.N. 2004. Aufstieg und Niedergang des Averroismus in der Renaissance: Niccolò Tignosi, Agostino Nifo, Francesco Vimercato. In “Herbst des Mittelalters?”: Fragen zur Bewertung des 14. und 15. Jahrhunderts, ed. J.A. Aertsen and M. Pickavé, 131–147. Berlin: W. de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  5. Kraye, J. 1995. Renaissance commentaries on the Nicomachean Ethics. In Vocabulary of teaching and research between Middle Ages and Renaissance: proceedings of the colloquium, London, Warburg Institute, 11–12 March 1994, ed. O. Weijers, 96–117. Turnhout: Brepols (rpt. in Kraye, Classical Traditions in Renaissance Philosophy, no. VI. Aldershot 2002. Ashgate).Google Scholar
  6. Lines, D.A. 1999a. Faciliter edoceri: Niccolò Tignosi and the audience of Aristotle’s Ethics in fifteenth-century Florence. Studi medievali, III s 40(1): 139–168.Google Scholar
  7. Lines, D.A. 1999b. The commentary literature on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics in early Renaissance Italy: Preliminary considerations. Traditio 54: 245–282. (esp. 260–61, 264–66, 273–74).Google Scholar
  8. Lines, D.A. 2001. Ethics as philology: A developing approach to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics in Florentine humanism. In Renaissance readings of the “Corpus Aristotelicum”, ed. M. Pade, 27–42. Copenhagen: Tusculanum Press.Google Scholar
  9. Lines, D.A. 2002. Aristotle’s ‘Ethics’ in the Italian Renaissance (ca 1300–1650): the universities and the problem of moral education, 490–491. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  10. Lines, D.A. 2007. Lefèvre and French Aristotelianism on the eve of the sixteenth century. In Der Aristotelismus in der Frühen Neuzeit nach dem Fall von Konstantinopel – Kontinuität oder Wiederaneignung? ed. A. Speer and G. Frank, 273–289. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz in Kommission.Google Scholar
  11. Lines, D.A. 2013. Rethinking Renaissance Aristotelianism: Bernardo Segni’s Ethica, the Florentine Academy, and the vernacular in sixteenth-century Italy. Renaissance Quarterly 66(3): 824–865.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Lohr, C.H. 1972. Medieval Latin Aristotle commentaries. Authors: Narcissus–Richardus. Traditio 28(1972): 306.Google Scholar
  13. Mercati, G. 1938. Codici latini Pico Grimani Pio … esistenti nell’Ottoboniana. Vatican City: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.Google Scholar
  14. Pfisterer, U. 1999. Phydias und Polyklet von Dante bis Vasari: Zu Nachruhm und künstlerischer Rezeption antiker Bildhauer in der Renaissance. Marburger Jahrbuch für Kunswissenschaft 26: 61–97. (esp. 77).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Pfisterer, U. 2001. Künstlerliebe: Der Narcissus-Mythos bei Leon Battista Alberti und die Aristoteles-Lektüre der Frührenaissance. Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 64(3): 305–330. (esp. 325–26).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Rotondò, A. 1958. Nicolò Tignosi da Foligno (polemiche aristoteliche di un maestro di Ficino). Rinascimento 9: 217–255.Google Scholar
  17. Sensi, M. 1971–1972. Niccolò Tignosi da Foligno: l’opera e il pensiero. Annali della Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia, Università degli Studi di Perugia 9: 359–495.Google Scholar
  18. Sère, B. 2007. Penser l’amitié au Moyen Âge. Etude historique des commentaires sur les livres VIII et IX de l’ “Ethique à Nicomaque” (XIIIe–XVe siècle). Turnhout: Brepols.Google Scholar
  19. Thorndike, L. 1927. Some unpublished Renaissance moralists and philosophers of the second half of the fifteenth century. Romanic Review 18: 114–133.Google Scholar
  20. Thorndike, L. 1929. Science and thought in the fifteenth century. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Vasoli, C. 2006. L’insegnamento delle discipline filosofiche tra la seconda metà del XV secolo e gli inizi del XVI e l’influsso dell’Umanesimo in 750 anni degli statuti universitari aretini. 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, ed. F. Stella, 337–355. Florence: SISMEL: Edizioni del Galluzzo.Google Scholar

Tertiary Literature

  1. Cosenza, M.E. 1962–1967. Biographical and bibliographical dictionary of the Italian humanists and of the world of classical scholarship in Italy, 1300–1800, 6 vols., 3408 ff., V, 1756 ff. Boston: G.K. Hall.Google Scholar
  2. Lohr, C.H. 1988. Commentateurs d’Aristote au moyen-âge latin: Bibliographie de la litterature sécondaire recente, 183. Fribourg/Paris: Éditions Universitaires/Éditions du Cerf.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© © Her Majesty the Queen in Right of United Kingdom 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Italian Studies, School of Modern Languages and CulturesUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK