Art: A City of Crowded Images

At the National Gallery, paintings form 17th century Naples

One of the tests of a great city is its receptivity to the foreigner, its openness to the stranger with unfamiliar ideas. That made Paris what it was and New York what it is. Raphael, appearing in some scrofulous Sicilian hill town in the cinquecento, would hardly have altered the history of cart decoration. Appearing in Rome, he changed the history of art. Something of this kind—the transformation that only urban cultures can produce, sparked by an apparently small event—had occurred in Naples by...

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