Art & Music

The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Greek Architecture

Philadelphia Museum of Art Greek Architecture
Image Courtesy —

If you’re a tourist interested in visiting Philadelphia, you’re probably planning an afternoon at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Yes, the museum from the movie Rocky–the iconic scene of Sylvester Stallone raising his arms above his head in triumph. The museum is one of the biggest landmarks in Philadelphia and the design was influenced by Greek Architecture.

The Greek Architecture

If you stand at the bottom of the steps and look up, you can envision a building of its size to be atop the acropolis in Athens, Greece. The building features wings that come together against a middle section that looks similar to the entrance to the Parthenon.

Even though the building began construction in the early 1900s, there are details in the craftsmanship that pay homage to Ancient Greece.

According to a resource from Villanova University, the front and rear entrances are fixed with columns designed to reflect the Corinthian order. What makes the design distinguishable is the architecture in the capital–the crown of the column.

There are 5 orders in Ancient Greek architecture: Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Tuscan, and Composite. Most notably, the 3 main orders are Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. In this article from Britannica, you can identify each order of architecture by looking at the capital. As for the front and rear entrances of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, you can see the elegant column architecture that incorporates the acanthus leaves of the Mediterranean.

Corinthian capitals —

On the North wing, you can see the difference in architectural order due to the curled capital of the column. This architecture represents the Ionic order. Above the columns is a set of mythological sculptures by Carl Paul Jennewein. The figures represent Greek gods (depicted in the feature image).

Ionic Capital —

Visitors may pass through these structures without knowing the history behind this architecture. According to, designs like these are used in many other important buildings in America–such as the United States Capitol and the Supreme Court.

For those unfamiliar with Greek culture and its extensive history, check out this article to start reading books on Greek mythology. As for people who are familiar with this Philadelphia landmark, take a moment to admire the Greek architecture.


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