Writing anything about “The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions,” the Metropolitan Museum’s spectacular tribute to its legendary, about-to-depart director, may not have been necessary.[1] The show could be summed up by printing “WOW!” in large, bold-face letters and letting it go at that. Alternatively, the exhibition’s opulence and diversity could be conveyed very effectively just by a list of the splendid works of art on display. If the selection of objects included in “The Philippe de Montebello Years” were the permanent collection of some small provincial museum, it would be a place of pilgrimage. The sheer variety and scope of the exhibition—three hundred paintings, sculptures, works on paper, photographs, musical instruments, furniture, textiles, costumes, decorative arts, armor, and more, of all...


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