Historian of Italian art. Studied under Adolfo Venturi in Rome (1900-04). After matriculation he was a lecturer at the Accademia Scientifico-Letterario (Milan, 1905-6), professor at the University of Turin (1907-14), Florence (1914-26) and Rome (1926-48). Methodologically, he distinguished himself for his anti-positivistic approach to art history, arguing that artistic value of any work is determined by the historical conditions under which it was produced (as opposed to the "progress" it represents from earlier pieces). Like many art historians, he was trained in philology, which he employed to great advantage in his analytical writings. Toesca's area was medieval art, which he lectured on until 1936, when he broadened his scope to Renaissance to Modern areas. His most famous student was the art historian Roberto Longhi, who wrote his disseration under Toesca. The prominent medievalist Ernst Kitzinger also studied under him in Rome. Toesca's work was praised by Josef Rudolf Thomas Strzygowski. His monograph on Giotto (1941) and his Trecento volume in the Storia dell'arte italiana remain major contributions to the history of art. His work on Romanesque sculpture was furthered by Roberto Salvini.
Florentine Painting of the Trecento. Florence: Pantheon, casa editrice, 1929; " Il Medioevo" (2 vols.), "Il Trecento" of Storia dell'arte italiana (v.1: Storia dell'arte classica e italiana, pt 3) Torino: Unione tipografico-editrice torinese; Giotto: Con venticinque tavole fuori testo. (I Grandi Italiani, collana di biografie: 18) Torino: Unione tipografico-Editrice torinese,1941.
Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l'histoire de l'art; de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, p. 420; The Dictionary of Art 31: 71-2; Romano, Giovanni. Storie dell'arte: Toesca, Longhi, Wittkower, Previtali. Rome: Donzelli, 1998;