"Venice: Pure City" brims with this sort of insight and anecdote, particularly with regard to the city's long and fruitful interchange with Byzantium, a relationship that would cast a unique and decisive influence over both aesthetics and culture. Given the book's reach, it seems like quibble to harp on small errors, but Igor Stravinsky died in New York and the Eastern Emperor Alexius Comnenus (Alexio Komenos) surely was gone by the Fourth Crusade. When it comes to the visual arts, Ackroyd's assessments can be a trifle quirky. He finds the Venetian portrait tradition, for example, curiously lacking any "personal character." In fact, as just one of many contrary examples that come to mind, Catena's great portrait of Andrea Gritti, the Doge who built that palace, depicts a face that is the apotheosis of calculation.