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Interior of the Metropolitan Museum of at 14th Street

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Convinced that tradition should shape the skills of American artists and the standards of their patrons, Waller endeavored to improve art instruction and applauded new museums such as the Metropolitan, which opened in 1870. He sets this scene in the Metropolitan's second home, the Douglas Mansion on West Fourteenth Street, which it occupied from 1873 to 1879. Waller presents a woman as the archetypal female devotee of art and culture, thus expressing women's association with civilizing pastimes. He portrays two second-floor galleries as they appeared in 1879, when the portrait—then attributed to Leonardo—on view in the far room was on loan. Henry Peters Gray's Wages of War (1848), the Metropolitan's first American acquisition, is installed above the doorway.