British Museum

In 1816 the British Museum put on display the marbles Lord Elgin had cut from the Parthenon. The poet John Keats thought them so luminescent that they were the “shadow” of the deity. A riding master took his class to view the equestrian frieze (shown here) to give them a lesson in horsemanship. To 19th-century Europeans, the Elgin Marbles were an ideal to which all art should aspire—and Layard’s Assyrian finds, displayed in London in the 1850s, fell short of the mark. The British sculptor Richard Westmacott declared them void of aesthetic value: The Assyrian monstrosities did not belong under the same roof as the divine Parthenon sculptures.