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Neoclassicism literally means 'new classicism' or a revival of classical values. The word is used as a style label and is applied to aspects of the arts of the later 18th and early 19th centuries. At that period there was a conscious revival and appropriation of classical models of art and architecture. The word classical is used in this context to imply both ancient works of art, especially architecture and sculpture, and those by painters of the 16th and 17th centuries such as Raphael and Poussin who were inspired by antique precedents, and in turn established ideals in their work which came to be regarded as "classic".

A renewed emphasis - both inside and outside the academies - on the public and didactic function of art was an important factor in the rise of Neoclassicism, as were the excavations of ancient sites in Italy and elsewhere.