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In this incisive study, Hellmut Wohl redefines style in the Italian Renaissance in the light of contemporary testimony and close rereadings of seminal works. Through analysis of visual and textual evidence, he posits that Renaissance artists and their viewers conceived of art as decoration of surfaces. Their preferences, which were largely shaped by the ornate style in the classical theory of rhetoric, provide a useful guide to the stylistic variables in Quattrocento and Cinquecento art; to the relationship of narrative, figurative, and decorative elements; and to the link between the arts of painting, sculpture, wood, and marble intarsie, mosaic and stained glass. Offering a new approach to the issue of style, Wohl suggests that the scientific dimensions of early modern art works were less important to contemporaries than their function as decoration and ornamentation.