The greatest living chronicler of Venetian history brings to life the city's magical charm in a beautifully illustrated and captivating book. John Julius Norwich, the author of the acclaimed "A History of Venice," traces the transformation of Venice from a proud independent state into a dazzling dreamscape that attracted artists, writers, and ...
The greatest living chronicler of Venetian history brings to life the city's magical charm in a beautifully illustrated and captivating book. John Julius Norwich, the author of the acclaimed "A History of Venice," traces the transformation of Venice from a proud independent state into a dazzling dreamscape that attracted artists, writers, and composers from around the world. In a strikingly effective departure from straight narrative history, he tells the story of Venice through the experiences and reactions of such famous nineteenth-century visitors as Napoleon Bonaparte, Lord Byron, John Ruskin, Henry James, Richard Wagner, James Whistler, and Robert Browning. Written with brio and humor, the profiles capture the incomparable charms of Venice--and the quirks of these historic figures as they discover (or fail to discover) them. Napoleon, having achieved the conquest that had thwarted other forces for a thousand years, was totally indifferent to the glories of his prize. The almost comically lascivious Byron seduced nearly every woman in Venice until he had the misfortune of falling in love with one of them, and the prim Ruskin obsessively sketched every architectural detail for his seminal book, "The Stones of Venice," even as his comely wife grew weary of his celibacy. Wagner worked on "Tristan und Isolde" in Venice, and Whistler painted his greatest masterpieces there. Like Peter Ackroyd's much-praised "London, Paradise of Cities" is at once a fascinating history, a matchless travel guide, and a wonderful gift book. Filled with vintage photographs and full-color reproductions of period paintings, it conveys both the misfortune of Venice's decline and the magnificenceof its eternal beauty. It is as magical, as colorful, and as irresistible as its subject.
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Publishers Weekly, 2003-08-04 By the end of the 19th century, Venice-conquered by Napoleon, handed over to the Austrians, plundered by the departing French troops, ruled by the Hapsburgs, and plundered again by the Austrians when they left in the 1860s-had lost much of its former glory. Nevertheless, Venice continued to fascinate travelers, and in this gracefully written book, Norwich (A History of Venice) attempts to portray the city through the eyes of some of its famous visitors of the period. Except for passages drawn from the writings of these travelers, this approach is not entirely successful, particularly in the chapter on Lord Byron, which is mainly concerned with the poet's love affairs. Similarly, the section on Robert Browning has more to do with his enthusiasm for his son's restoration of one of the palaces on the Grand Canal than with Browning's impressions of the city. On the other hand, in the chapter on John Ruskin, who recorded the decaying city in drawings, watercolors and writings, readers get some telling descriptions, and a sense of Venetian atmosphere and everyday life comes across in Norwich's accounts of the paintings of James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent. Perhaps the most compelling chapter is the one on the eccentric, penniless and misanthropic British novelist Frederick Rolfe (Baron Corvo), who, because he alienated everyone who tried to help him, was homeless during much of the time he lived in Venice. For the most part, the book, though intriguing, reveals more about the lives and personalities of the visitors than about Venice itself. Illus. not seen by PW. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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