Museums: Marble for the Met

In the lofty Great Hall of Manhattan's Metropolitan Museum of Art last week appeared a newly acquired, exquisitely graceful, 7-ft. white marble statue of the mythical Perseus victoriously displaying the severed head of the Gorgon Medusa. It was completed in 1808 by the neoclassical Italian sculptor Antonio Canova. In its first week atop its pedestal, it drew gasps of admiration from some. Others responded to its supersubtle softness and delicacy much as did the poet Keats when shown Canova's half-nude statue of Pauline Bonaparte, Napoleon's sister. Sniffed Keats: "Beautiful bad taste."

Canova, one of the most celebrated sculptors of his day,...

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