When the Wadsworth Atheneum opened in 1844 as the first public gallery of fine arts in America, the highlights of the collection were works by contemporary American artists. However, gifts soon brought a number of old master paintings to the museum, and today perhaps the most famous aspect of its fine European painting collection is the concentration of Italian Baroque masterpieces. The museum's distinguished director in the 1930s and 1940s, Chick Austin, acquired notable examples by Strozzi, Luca Giordano, and the first authentic Caravaggio in an American museum. Today the Atheneum can present an exhibition beginning with such Renaissance masters as Piero di Cosimo and Sebastiano del Piombo, continuing with the finest examples of Baroque painting, and culminating in a blaze of rococo splendor with Tiepolo, Canaletto, Guardi, Melendez, Greuze, and Goya. This catalogue includes a history of the collection by Eric Zafran and entries on the individual paintings by distinguished scholars. The exhibition opens at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida, in January 2004 and travels to Fort Worth, Nashville, Charlotte, Raleigh, Montreal, and New York.