The Horses of St. Marks: A Story of Triumph in Byzantium, Paris and Venice

Overview

The Horses of St. Mark's in Venice are among art's finest creations-and certainly one with a story like no other. Celebrated historian Charles Freeman, author of the 2009 surprise hit A.D. 381, explores the mysterious origin of the statues and their turbulent movements through Europe over the centuries: in Constantinople, at both its founding and sacking in the Fourth Crusade; in Venice, at both the height of its greatness and fall in 1797; in the Paris of Napoleon, and the revolutions of 1848; and back in ...

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The Horses of St. Mark's: A Story of Triumph in Byzantium, Paris, and Venice

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Overview

The Horses of St. Mark's in Venice are among art's finest creations-and certainly one with a story like no other. Celebrated historian Charles Freeman, author of the 2009 surprise hit A.D. 381, explores the mysterious origin of the statues and their turbulent movements through Europe over the centuries: in Constantinople, at both its founding and sacking in the Fourth Crusade; in Venice, at both the height of its greatness and fall in 1797; in the Paris of Napoleon, and the revolutions of 1848; and back in Venice, the most romantic city in the world. In this remarkable new book, Freeman shows how the horses came to stand at the heart of European history time and time again.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
After Napoleon triumphed over Venice in 1798, he demonstrated his strength by plundering the city-state's greatest treasures, including a set of four Greek or Roman gilded copper horses (their precise origins are not known) adorning St. Mark's loggia and sending them straight to Paris. According to Freeman (A.D. 381), the horses were prime booty, symbolizing wealth, cultural assets, and military prowess. Thus, they were periodically looted by history's victors, going first to Constantinople and then to Venice after its defeat of the declining Byzantine capital in 1204. After Napoleon's fall, Venice recovered the horses from Paris. Despite Freeman's efforts, too much remains unknown about the horses (such as how Constantinople originally obtained them), and the statues become almost peripheral to the narrative of the political and cultural environments of the 13th to 19th centuries. Freeman supposes the horses may have inspired artists such as Paolo Uccello and Dürer, who visited Venice. Most compelling for devout lovers of art and European history, Freeman effectively and ironically juxtaposes the horses' location (atop a church) with the violence that punctuated their role as “plundered plunder.” B&w photos. (June)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590202678
  • Publisher: Overlook Press, The
  • Publication date: 8/12/2010
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,388,660
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

In more than thirty years, Charles Freeman's travels have taken him to most of the sites mentioned in The Greek Achievement, from Aphrodisias to Olympia, from Troy to Delphi. He has dug on all three continents surrounding the Mediterranean and served as academic director on summer schools on Renaissance Italy. His books include EGYPT, GREECE AND ROME; CIVILIZATIONS OF THE ANCIENT MEDITERRANEAN; and LEGACIES OF THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

Preface

1 Plundered Plunder 1

2 Constantinople: The Horses' First Home? 15

3 Horses And Heroes 32

4 Creating Quadricae 49

5 Watchers In The Hippodrome 62

6 The Fourth Crusade And The Sack Of Constantinople 69

7 The Horses Arrive At St Mark's 92

8 Doge Or Emperor? The Horses, Hippodromes And Imperial Display 105

9 Venice: The Republican Community 121

10 The Search For The Horses' Origins 132

11 The Ideal Horse? 144

12 The Horses In An Age Of Decadimento 165

13 The Fall Of The Venetian Republic 190

14 'To The Carrousel!': The Horses Triumph In Paris 199

15 Antonio Canova And The Return Of The Horses To Venice 211

16 Greek Or Roman? The Nineteenth-Century Debates 223

17 Fragmented Imaginations: The Reinvention Of Venice 241

18 Denouements 256

19 Envoi: The Horses As Cultural Icons 272

Bibliographical Note 278

Index 281

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