Art: Pericles to Picasso

For its big midyear show, which opened last week, Manhattan's Metropolitan Museum had chosen an appropriately big subject: "The Classical Contribution to Western Civilization." Covering 25 centuries, the exhibition set out to demonstrate how much was owed to the Greeks and Romans by medieval, Renaissance and even modern art.

For illustration, the Met had wheeled in sculpture, painting and prints from most of its vast departments, had even borrowed a few pieces from the advance-guard Museum of Modern Art. As a result, the show was a sort of digest version of the Met itself, and as it was all in one place,...

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