New classical exhibit at the Met wins praise from NYT





The power of ancient art has to do with its ability, as my friend put it, “to embody great acts and communicate their human dimension.” Rome became the model for Western culture from the Renaissance through the Enlightenment.

I’m not sure exactly when its pre-eminence began to fade, but in 1949 a young, populist Met director named Francis Henry Taylor decided to turn the Roman court, the literal and symbolic climax of the building’s southern wing, into a restaurant, which devolved into a cafeteria. Plenty of New Yorkers grew up learning from this arrangement that eating a nutted cheese sandwich at Chock full o’Nuts before going to the museum was a thriftier option than buying a tuna sandwich once you got there.

It was a life lesson, just not the kind that Virgil wrote about.

Fortunately, now, beside the humongous column from the Temple of Artemis at Sardis, which marked the entrance to the cafeteria, where mobs used to crane their necks looking not like Aeneas for hope and inspiration but for the beef stew, you can instead gaze up at huge architectural fragments from the same temple, including one with the sort of egg-and-dart molding that inspired the Met’s facade by Richard Morris Hunt.




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