Art: Graven Images

What is the ideal museum show?

The answer will depend on what you think museums ought to do, but in the area of art history it would be very hard to better the main summer offering of Washington's National Gallery of Art, "Early Italian Engravings." This is a recondite field, for Italian Renaissance prints are rare, and great ones excruciatingly so. Simply because they were meant to be widely distributed—whether as cheap ex-votos or as artists' samples—most of them have been lost.

The National Gallery's show, directed by a trio of experts (Konrad Oberhuber,...

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