With the reopening of the Metropolitan’s Greek and Roman galleries, the Great Hall of this museum has become a compelling visual metaphor for the Mediterranean.[1] Entering Richard Morris Hunt’s grandiloquent space is now not only a progress into the museum, but an introduction to the geographical center of where the art and culture of the West began: turn right and you are in dynastic Egypt; straight ahead and Byzantium transforms itself into early medieval Europe; and on the left, mysterious little Neolithic and Cycladic figurines herald the start of it all—there in the eastern Mediterranean.

Hunt was a decidedly better stylist when working with the Gothic and even Baroque vocabularies than that of the Classical age. The Met’s Great Hall of 1902, with its huge, oppressive arches sitting on their stubby pilasters, gives the impression of having somehow sunk deep...

 
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