The salad fork is the one to the left of the dinner fork. Elbows off the table. Mouth closed while chewing (critical!). These are rules that evoke childhood, ones we love to break when no one’s around and wish we remembered when suddenly faced with bread dishes on either side. They’re also the most current iteration of a 5,000-year-long evolution of table manners. “Tables of Power” tracks this history through nearly 400 works, from archaeological objects to paintings, sculptures, and tableware spanning the banquets of ancient Mesopotamia, reclined Greco-Roman feasts, and French- and Russian-style services. Before it all, though, there is perhaps the oldest of table traditions, never so in vogue as it is today: hand washing. —J.V.
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