Horses at St Mark’s Basilica in Venice

Artist: Boris Kustodiev
Date: 1907
Media: Gouache, graphite pencil and tempera on cardboard
Dimensions: 35.5 x 51.8 cm
Ownership: Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Ivan Morozov collection, Moscow (until 1918); State Museum of New Western Art, Moscow (until 1927)
Style: Impressionism
Boris Kustodiev, Horses at St Mark’s Basilica in Venice, 1907


Boris Kustodiev toured Italy in the company of Dmitry Stelletsky from 29 May to early August 1907. They visited Venice, Florence and Rome, admiring the works of the Venetian school and such Renaissance sculptors as Michelangelo.

Although Kustodiev travelled extensively across Europe, he only painted a few obligatory views of Paris, Seville, Venice and the Swiss Alps. The artist much preferred to create endless variations of his own unique images of Russia.

The quadriga of St Mark is the only surviving example of ancient multi-figured equestrian sculpture. The horses decorated the Hippodrome of Constantinople until 1204, when they were taken to Venice following the Fourth Crusade.

The sculptures were installed on the loggia of St Mark’s Basilica between 1252 and 1268, becoming one of the symbols of the city. In 1982, the four horses were replaced by copies (the originals are now in the museum inside the cathedral).

Literature: Boris Mikhailovich Kustodiev (1878–1927). Katalog vystavki k 100-letiyu so dnya rozhdeniya, Scientific Research Museum of the Academy of Arts, Leningrad, 1978, p. 57

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