Who would have guessed that a “California girl” who graduated high school in 1969, one fascinated by archaeology, Greek and Roman art, art history (especially the Renaissance), and contemporary Los Angeles art would end up happily employed in Washington, DC, at the National Gallery of Art, famous for its collections of Western post-ancient art?

In 1969 and the early 1970s Washington was a place one went to protest the war and the inequities of civil liberties. Despite the richness of East Coast museums, it was Europe that drew me: the ancient sites, the archaeological finds illuminating the classical and biblical worlds; and the great museums of the capitals. I entered university in 1969 as an art history major, resolved to understand the art of the past. It sounds both naïve and hubristic, but as I told my somewhat mystified parents, I wanted to be a professor and an expert on...

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