This chapter begins with a vignette far removed from London, and from the urban industrial culture that engendered the South Kensington Museum–later renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). It examines some aspects of the complex, apparently contradictory, identity of the V&A, and explores the ways in which this identity overlaps with those of other contemporary institutions, most notably the British Museum and National Gallery. The chapter hopes to bring out some of the paradoxes implicit in the South Kensington project, paradoxes which slip into confusions in instances such as the Bowes Museum. It describes the multiple character of the museum as 'imperialist'. The chapter argues that Mitter and Clunas over-simplify the 'imperial' rationale of the collection. It suggests that the high art represented by Leighton's imitations of Raphael is at once an ideal towards which all creativity aspires and a marginal decorative addition to the building.