Venice has 'captured' the heart, mind and imagination of so many writers, poets, artists and historians. Venice is one of my favourite subjects in art, literature and history, and I am always eager to learn more and look more at this unique and special place. This Venice blog is my way of collecting the wealth of images, poems, prose and impressions of Venice.

Sunday 19 August 2012

What I'm reading: Henry James, The Italian Hours

Photo by Capturing Venice

"Venice.  It is a great pleasure to write the word; but I am not sure there is not a certain impudence in pretending to add anything to it.
Venice has been painted, described many thousands of times, and of all the cities in the world is the easiest to visit without going there. Open the first book and you will find a rhapsody about it; step into the first picture-dealer’s and you will find three or four high-coloured 'views' of it.  There is notoriously nothing more to be said on the subject.  Every one has been there, and every one has brought back a collection of photographs.  There is as little mystery about the Grand Canal as about our local thoroughfare, and the name of St Mark is as familiar as the postman’s ring. 
It is not forbidden, however, to speak of familiar things, and I hold that for the true Venice-lover Venice is always in order.  There is nothing new to be said about her certainly, but the old is better than any novelty.  It would be sad day indeed when there should be something new to say.  I write these lines with the full consciousness of having no information whatever to offer.  I do not pretend to enlighten the reader; I pretend only to give a fillip to his memory; and I hold any writer sufficiently justified who is himself in love with his theme".
Henry James, The Italian Hours, 1909


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    Venice became an imperial power following the Venetian-financed Fourth Crusade, which in 1204 seized and sacked Constantinople and established the Latin Empire. As a result of this conquest considerable Byzantine plunder was brought back to Venice. This plunder included the gilt bronze horses from the Hippodrome of Constantinople, which were originally placed above the entrance to St Mark's cathedral in Venice, although the originals have been replaced with replicas and the originals are now stored within the basilica. Following the fall of Constantinople the former Roman Empire was partitioned among the Latin crusaders and the Venetians. Venice subsequently carved out a sphere of influence in the Mediterranean known as the Duchy of the Archipelago, and seized Crete.
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