Karyn L. Barr
October 17, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

It’s no secret that the Louvre’s Venus de Milo is armless and that the Tower of Pisa has a mean lean of 5.5 degrees. But did you know that the maimed marble statue was originally a brightly painted niche decoration for a Greek gym, or that the campanile’s famous tilt was once believed to be the architectural revenge of a bitter hunchback? These strange but true facts are highlighted in these book-length crash courses on the popular icons. However, only ”Disarmed” will satiate voracious art buffs. Curtis, former editor of ”Texas Monthly,” maintains authority with his in-depth, engaging analysis (though he occasionally overwhelms readers with minutiae). Meanwhile, journalist Shrady breaks no ground with his too brief, oft dry account. But if you judge a book by its cover, you may find a bias for ”Tilt”’s quirky slanted design.

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