The first thing to be said about the new exhibition at the British Museum, Defining Beauty: The Body in Ancient Greek Art, is that it is genuinely spectacular and deserves the hosannas it has already been greeted with in the press. The second thing is that it is highly political.
It is political in all sorts of ways. The most obvious of these can be found in the fact that it plucks a number of the so-called "Elgin marbles", which once formed part of the decoration of the Parthenon, from their usual setting in another part of the museum, and presents them as part of a new and sometimes fairly subversive narrative about the relationship of ancient Greek culture to the representation of the human body - nude bodies in particular. This offers a statement about the importance of Greek art, and indeed other aspects of Greek culture, to Western European culture viewed as a whole, and a more specific statement about the two-stage return to ideas and values initiated by the ancient Greeks, first during the Renaissance and, second, even more strongly, in response to the European Enlightenment.