What the Horses Have Seen,
This review is from: The Horses Of St Marks: A Story of Triumph in Byzantium, Paris and Venice (Paperback)
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 only 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.