Lotto's oeuvre wasn't sorted out until 1895, when Bernard Berenson published a pioneering monograph on the artist, a model of Berenson's method of close scrutiny and exacting connoisseurship; this ground-breaking study, later revised by Berenson himself, remains a fundamental text.
The recent intensification of interest in this eccentric, highly individual (and, happily, well documented) artist has culminated in a fascinating exhibition that sums up the state of modern Lotto scholarship to date.
Not that Lotto seems any easier to come to grips with, even if you pay close attention to the works exhibited at the National Gallery and read the helpful wall texts that keep track of the peripatetic artist's restless changes of residence and unravel the arcane symbolism of his pictures.
Sometimes Lotto resembles one of those hard- to- classify sixteenth- century artists (much loved by professors setting difficult slide identification quizzes) born and trained in the Netherlands, whose style and iconography were deeply affected, but not completely transformed, by years of working in Italy.
Lotto came by his apparent aesthetic schizophrenia legitimately, since he was just old enough to have had first-hand exposure to potent examples of both the Northern Neo-Gothic manner and the new "giorgionism" of golden light and pastoral themes.