Travels Through
Greco - Roman Antiquity
An exploration of texts and images from Falvey Library's Special Collections works on ancient Greece and Rome.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

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Rear Entrance, Philadelphia Museum of Art. 


In 1895, a competition was announced to determine the design for the new museum to house Philadelphia’s growing art collection. In 1907 it was decided that the new building would be located on Fairmount Hill, atop the recently decommissioned reservoir, which was also to be the terminating point of the new Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The final design was decided in 1917, which was a “collaborative effort by the firm of Zantzinger, Borie, and Medary; Paul Cret; Horace Trumbauer; and various members of Trumbauer’s firm”. Actual construction on the building was not begun though until 1919, due to the First World War, and was completed in 1928. The museum was built from the wings inward, to discourage the city from withdrawing funding and leaving an unusable, unfinished building.


The Museum is situated with a central structure, with the front and rear being of near identical appearance. Two wings, North and South, extend from the front and enclose the front courtyard on three sides. Each façade is constructed in imitation of the typical Greek temple, in the Ionic order. The front and rear entrances are faced with Ionic columns, fluted and resting on typical Ionic bases. The columns of the North and South wings are similar, but are crowned with the traditional Ionic capitals with volutes, while the front and rear columns are topped with Corinthian capitals. Each façade has a continuous frieze, left unadorned, and a pediment from the pitched roof. Initially each pediment was meant to be decorated, but only one was completed. The North Wing pediment is decorated with the pantheon of the gods, along with a few mythical creatures, with the clear inspiration of various ancient pediments. Interestingly, instead of leaving the building the natural stone color, as many classically inspired buildings do, several features of the architecture are decorated and accented with painted color. This includes the capitals of the columns, the border of each pediment and frieze, and the sculptures of the gods.

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North Wing. Sculptures of the Greek Gods by Carl Paul Jennewein. 

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Front Entrance. 






“Our Story”. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Accessed April 24, 2016.


“The Early Decades: 1877-1900”.

"Galleries and Gardens" With Art Philadelphia. Accessed April 30, 2016.