[Ads-l] Anecdote: These pictures are not on trial. It is the visitors who are on trial

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon Apr 12 14:32:00 UTC 2021

Back in December 2020 Bill Mullins mentioned to me (off list) a family
of anecdotes that he thought I might find interesting. The anecdotes
are about the evaluation of items that have been designated cultural
masterpieces. Now the Quote Investigator website has an entry on the


Here is the earliest instance I located:

[ref] 1904 February 13, Congregationalist and Christian World, Volume
89, Issue 7, (Untitled filler item), Quote Page 232, Column 3, Boston,
Massachusetts. (ProQuest) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
F. W. Macdonald, Kipling’s Wesleyan preacher uncle, tells an apt story
having analogical and homiletical aptness for those talking of the
Bible’s permanent worth to men. "Are these masterpieces?" said a
tourist in a Florentine gallery. "I must admit that I don’t see much
in them myself." Said the reserved doorkeeper, "These pictures are not
on trial. It is the visitors who are on trial."
[End excerpt]

[Begin acknowledgement]
Great thanks to Brad Verter and Bill Mullins whose inquiry led QI to
formulate this question and perform this exploration.
[End acknowledgement]

Feedback welcome
Garson O'Toole

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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