VENICE: A Thousand Years of Culture and Civilization by Peter Lauritzen

VENICE: A Thousand Years of Culture and Civilization

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This casual celebration of the thousand-year republic falls, as a book, between several stools. It is not a picture book--the 32 black-and-white plates are sometimes exquisite but many books in color fulfill this function better. It is not a history, for Lauritzen tells his tale as though writing a term paper--point after point is mentioned but few are discussed. The elaborate Venetian constitution is slighted, such blots on the most serene escutcheon as the bombing of the Parthenon axe ignored, and Lauritzen gets names, dates, and relationships wrong--even ascribing a Donizetti opera about Venice to Verdi and the Thirty Years War, rather fancifully, to the Pope. His specialty is artistic history, and he laboriously discusses every extant building in the city, every mosaic, every painting--its stylistic provenance and the era of its creation. This is fascinating stuff, except for Lauritzen's style, which is long-winded without being elegant: ""Venetian sculpture, which could be said to have evolved from the traditions of Lombard Gothic stonecutters' workshops, was generally subsidiary to its architectural context in a large wall tomb, or was an integral part of a building, such as in the allegorical carving at the ducal palace."" After a few pages densely packed with this sort of thing, all but the most devoted may prefer to turn to Jan Morris' book on the subject or, for easier reference, the Guide Michelin. And the most devoted will stick to Ruskin.

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 1978
Publisher: Atheneum