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Lawrence Alma-Tadema (British, 1836–1912), The Staircase, 1870. Oil on panel, 16 3/4 x 3 3/4 inches. Courtesy of Dahesh Museum of Art.

Since antiquity, the artistic vocabulary developed by the Greeks and Romans has resonated in the works of painters, sculptors, and architects. For centuries, classical images have served as both allusions to greatness—a symbolic measure of success—and decorative inspiration. Today, gods and urns appear as much at home in a rococo cartouche as a deconstructed column does in postmodern architecture—a testament to their enduring appeal.

English School, ca. 1785, genre scene with a classical house. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of Clinton Howell.

Perhaps the most enthusiastic and prolific revival in spirit and representation of classical ideas was Europe’s neoclassical movement of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. The Dahesh Museum’s exhibition Telling Tales I, on view through September 29, underscores the impact of Greco-Roman ideas and ideals on nineteenth-century academic artists and introduces new acquisitions in this genre. The Dahesh Museum, New York, NY, tel. 212.759.0606.

On the antiques market, classically inspired pieces can be found in disciplines across the board. Clinton Howell offers an English genre painting, circa 1758, depicting all the trappings of a well-bred gentleman’s eighteenth-century country estate. The grounds include a classical house,
One of a pair of plaques, Rome, ca. 1770–1790. White marble and black marble. 12 5/8 x 10 1/2 inches. Courtesy of L’Antiquaire & the Connoisseur.
parkland, and the requisite follies—temple, pagoda, lake with a made-to-scale seagoing galleon, and cataract—that display the owner’s knowledge of ancient Greco-Roman architecture and culture. Clinton Howell, New York, NY, tel. 212.517.5879.

Roll-top desk, France, ca. 1790–1810. Painted wood. H. 44 1/2 in. Courtesy of L’Antiquaire & the Connoisseur
Selections of classically informed continental drawings, furniture, and sculpture from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries at L’Antiquaire & the Connoisseur include a late-eighteenth-century Milanese chest of drawers with fruitwood inlays of swags, urns, and helmeted heroes. Shown here are whimsical winged putti on a roll-top desk and a striking Roman god’s profile in marble. L’Antiquaire & the Connoisseur, New York, NY, tel. 212.517.9176.

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