THIS little book is an answer to many inquiries for a guide to the study of Italian painting sufficiently clear and detailed for the beginner and yet embodying the results of modern criticism. The methods of art interpretation during the past forty years have been revolutionised as much as have been the methods of literary, historical, and Biblical criticism. A true estimate of schools and masters is now seen to rest upon the correct attribution of individual works of art, and this attribution depends upon the expert weighing of evidence for the authenticity of examples traditionally or otherwise attributed. Although documentary evidence and the accounts of early writers are necessarily used, the main factor in identification is an intimate acquaintance with the characteristics of periods and artists gained from constant and prolonged examination and comparison of the works themselves, a study which extends itself to all the minor and unknown men whose works are scattered through every hamlet and church and private palace in Italy, as well as through hundreds of private and public collections in Europe and America.
The task is great, and it has enlisted the labours of a host of students of various nationalities, who have recorded in periodicals and monographs the results of their discoveries. Nothing has been too remote or too insignificant for their interest, and we cannot over-emphasize what we owe to their disinterested search. But it has been for the most part unrelated and partial. To collate these studies and to produce the final authoritative work on the whole subject will be the lifework of some great critic of the coming generation. And we must look still later for someone who can rightly relate the marvellous art expression of Italy to its historical and social growth. The aim of the present writers has been to fix attention upon the monuments themselves, and to give familiarity with certain modern points of view and with the opinions of a few important critics such as the serious