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The Horses of St. Mark's: A Story of Triumph in Byzantium, Paris, and Venice Hardcover – Bargain Price, August 12, 2010


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Hardcover, Bargain Price, August 12, 2010
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Hardcover (August 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590202678
  • ASIN: B005SNKUTU
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,180,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From 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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Review

³Most compelling for devout lovers of art and European history, Freeman effectively and ironically juxtaposes the horses¹ location (atop a church) with the violence that punctuated their role as 'plundered plunder¹² -- Publishers Weekly

³How can famous objects seen daily by millions of tourists, whose long history is well-documented over the past few centuries, retain any mysteries? Charles Freeman eruditely explains how, as he puts those iconic Venetian equine statues under his historical microscope.² -- Barnes and Noble Review

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on February 11, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
... and there is a mystery at the center of this lively history, which is, the origin of the four gilt statues of horses that were looted by the Venetians from Constantinople during the Fouth Crusade in 1204, installed on the portico of San Marco in Venice, looted by the French under Napoleon from Venice in 1797, installed on an arch in Paris, returned to Venice after Napoleon's final fall, re-installed on San Marco, but then stashed for a while in Rome during the wars of the 20th C, and now back in Venice in indoor protection. For a 'quadriga' of standing horse, these are surely the most traveled quadrupeds in cultural history? Are they Greek or Roman in origin?, Third Century BC or Third Century AD? Nobody doubts their extreme antiquity or denies their artistic significance. But why were they cast, and specifically why in copper rather than bronze. And what have they meant, as symbols, to the various movers and shakers of history who have installed them in prominence?

Charles Freeman has constructed a vivid history of Venice -- La Serenissmina, the Queen of the Sea, the most fascinating city-state republic in history except possibly Athens -- around the provenance and significance of these four horses, warpping politics, economics, architecture, and art in his tale. This is ancedotal history at its most entertaining and 'journalistic,' though Freeman is superbly methodical in revelaing his sources as journalists never do. In fact, his well-expressed revelations of what we don't know about the horses, and why we don't know it, are almost as interesting as his generously detailed accounts of what we do know and how. That's my idea of proper historiography.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Maria P. Yoos on July 20, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
From the time I saw these beautiful sculptures in photos, I was in love with their magnificent beauty. I consider myself a horse lover and these great creations are a pice of art, sans pareil. I read short synapses of their history, but wanted to learn more about them and purchased Mr. Freeman's book. I was definitely not disappointed. He tells the great history of these statues in great detail and I now not only admire their beauty, but also know where they were born, and where history has taken them, over milennia. I recommend this book to all art history buffs, and those, like me, that just want to know about something created in antiquity, that we can still see and watch in awe today. Great book; very in
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By T. Wasser on January 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The Horses of St. Mark's by Charles Freeman is probably too long for its conceit of solving the mystery of the provenance of the four horses that are now crowded unceremoniously beneath the eaves inside St. Mark's in Venice (with copies standing on the outside Loggia). The evidence for the author's conclusion could have been marshaled in a few pages, and the conclusion in a couple of paragraphs.
Indeed, the reader mostly forgets the question of where the horses came from before they were plundered from Constantinople and brought to Venice in the much more interesting story told of where they have been and what they have witnessed since then. The strength of the book is how it brings to life the history of the rise and fall of the Venetian Republic, its conquering by Napoleon, and its tenuous hold against the sea. I was particularly happy to learn something about specific Venetian artists, and to be able to put them into their historical context. I had seen several of Canova's works (such as his sculpture of Napoleon's sister, Pauline) but now I know he was not merely an artist, but a man active in regard to safeguarding Italian art treasures, and diplomatically astute enough to be effective.
On the whole, I think the horses were an awkward choice to pull this particular chariot of information, although both the horses and the chariot are magnificent.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Alice Faye Sproul on August 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
BUT, it is fascinating and has already caused me to buy and read another book. I love horses, so I'm naturally interested in art depicting horses. I have found this book absolutely fascinating. I only wish the photos were in color. It is really hard to appreciate without that. BUT, there's always the internet .. God bless it!!!

Another thing, AMAZON .... it would be MOST helpful if all your book descriptions indicated whether or not the book is illustrated and whether or not such illustrations are in color. That way, I'll know which device to push it to since I have a Fire as well as a "regular" Kindle.
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