He was born in Modena and trained with Bartolomeo Ramenghi (Bagnacavallo). Known primarily as a portrait painter, Aretusi also painted the cupola of the cathedral of St. Peter in Bologna, where he was assisted by Giovanni Battista Fiorini. Aretusi is described by Lanzi as the better colorist, while Fiorini, the better designer. Aretusi restored the frescoes of Correggio for the tribune of the Cathedral of Parma, and made a copy of the famous La Notte painting by Correggio for the church of San Giovanni Evangelista in Parma. He died in 1612 in Parma.
The relationship of Cesare to the Modenese painters with the same surname, Pellegrino from the early 16th century or Alessandro Aretusi from the 17th, is unclear. Lanzi speculates he may have been the son of Pellegrino Aretusi.
- Farquhar, Maria (1855). Ralph Nicholson Wornum, ed. Biographical catalogue of the principal Italian painters. Woodfall & Kinder, Angel Court, Skinner Street, London; Digitized by Googlebooks from Oxford University copy on Jun 27, 2006. p. 10.
- Ticozzi, Stefano (1830). Dizionario degli architetti, scultori, pittori, intagliatori in rame ed in pietra, coniatori di medaglie, musaicisti, niellatori, intarsiatori d’ogni etá e d’ogni nazione (Volume 1). Gaetano Schiepatti; Digitized by Googlebooks, Jan 24, 2007. p. 75.
- Lanzi, Luigi (1847). Thomas Roscoe (translator), ed. History of Painting in Italy; From the Period of the Revival of the Fine Arts to the End of the Eighteenth Century (Volume III). London; Original from Oxford University, Digitized January, 2007: Henry G. Bohn. pp. 50–51.