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Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The art and architecture of the crusader states

VI: The Arts in Frankish Greece and Rhodes,   pp. 208-250 PDF (16.3 MB)

Page 210

 The Latins destroyed rather than created. Their sack of Constanti nople
stands out as one of the great moments of devastation, when the human inheritance
was permanently impoverished. The great bronze Juno of the forum was pulled
down and melted; the statue of Paris, the carved obelisk with its scenes
of country life, the bronze Hercules of Lysimachus, the statue of Helen "whose
grace posterity will never know"—all were overthrown. Nicetas in his
Narratio gives us the mournful catalogue, this final record of a splendor
of achievement which we can only fragmentarily imagine.2 Much of the destruction
was wanton and barbaric; relics were more prized than Greek paintings or
carvings, though the Venetians had more discrimination in their pillage than
the western feudatories, removing even large-scale works such as the bronze
horses that now bestride the porch of St. Mark's. Faced with the wonders
of this greatest of capitals, the crusaders defaced or stole. 
 There are, however, some traces that show western artists at work in the
ravaged city. Fragments of leaded glass windows suggest that western workers
may have been brought in to aid in adapting churches to the Latin rite, and,
in a blocked-up chapel, fragments of frescoes dealing with the life of St.
Francis have emerged from long obscurity (pl. XLVIII). They must be mid-thirteenth-century
work, the earliest frescoed series of the legend known. The listening birds
are still visible, and the head of a man from whom the devil is driven forth;
the other scenes are not identifiable, but probably followed the sequence
used in the Berlinghiero painting at Pescia (1235) and the similar portrait
with miracles in Santa Croce in Florence. The head of a friar is painted
with some feeling, and is strongly reminiscent of the Arsenal Bible and works
associated with the Acre school.3 
 Compared with the transitory existence of the Latin empire or the 
Conquête de Constantinople, avec la Continuation de Henri de Valenciennes
(3rd ed., Paris, 1882), p. 334, and ed. J. Longnon as Histoire de l'empereur
Henri de Constantinople (Documents relatifs a l'histoire des croisades, 2;
Paris, 1948), p. 50. 
 2. Nicetas ("Acominatus") Choniates, Narratio de statuis antiquis, quas
Franci post captam anno 1204 Constantinopolin destruxerunt, ed. F. Wilken
(Leipzig, 1830). Cf. J. F. Michaud, Bibliothèque des croisades, III
(Paris, 1829), 425; for relics see J. Ebersolt, Constantinople: Recuell d'études,
d'archéologie et d'histoire (Paris, 1951), pp. 105-151. 
 3. See above, pp. 133-134, and also K. Weitzmann, "Constantinopolitan Book
illumination in the Period of the Latin Conquest," Gazette des beaux-arts,
ser. 6, XXV (1944), 201 ff., and A. H. S. Megaw, "Notes on Recent Work of
the Byzantine Institute in Istanbul," Dumbarton Oaks Papers, XVII (1963),
333 ff., especially pp. 347-367. Megaw meticulously publishes the glass and
concludes that it is 12th-century. In response, J. Lafond argues that it
is 13th-century, done at the time of the Latin occupation; see his "Découverte
de vitraux histories du moyen age a Constantinople," Cahiers archéologiques,
XVIII (1968), 23 1-238; C. L. Striker and Y. Dogan Kuban, "Work at Kalenderhane
Camii in 
Istanbul: Second Preliminary Report," Dumbarton Oaks Papers, XXII (1968),
R. L. Wolff, "The Latin Empire of Constantinople and the Franciscans," Traditio,
II (1944), 

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