Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Side-by-Side Comparison of Newport Beach and Alamitos Bay Postcards

As promised, here is the side-by-side comparison of two significant gondola postcard images from the early twentieth century.
The top one is from Newport Beach, with the gondolier believed to be John Scarpa.
The bottom one is from an Alamitos Bay postcard. At this writing, the gondolier's identity is unknown.
It is highly likely that both of these gondolas were originally brought from Italy to Venice, California, and then relocated to the ports they are depicted in for the postcards.

Both of these postcards have been featured here individually.
the Newport Beach one on June 8th, 2008,
and the Alamitos Bay card on June 24th of 2008.

Production methods of postcard images have been addressed a number of times on the Gondola Blog. Like so many of the postcards we've seen, I believe both of these were based on monochrome photos, with colors and details added or enhanced later by artists.

I suspect that some artists who produced such images, may have taken liberties and/or made enhancements to their images.

When examining images of such uncertain accuracy, we need to look for details that wouldn't likely be included unless they were present in the original photo.
Putting flags on the bow and stern are easy to do, and an artist who'd seen one gondola with flags flying, could easily paint them into another image.
Deck detail is quite another thing. Take a look at the bow deck detail on the two gondolas above.
Scarpa's gondola has the same sort of "triple figure-eight" design as we've seen in photo postcards of his boat - it's an older bow decoration method that we don't see much these days.
The Alamitos gondola has a smooth deck up front, which is a lot like the decks we currently see on standard passenger gondolas.

Both gondolas have five-fingered ferros, which were more commonly seen in the early 1900's. What's different between the two ferros is the angle: Scarpa's ferro leans back more than the other one.

Scarpa's gondola has additional seats occupying the area just aft of the main seat (or "divan" as some call it). This extra seating was typical of gondolas in North America during that era.
I was surprised to see no extra seating in the Alamitos Bay gondola. Such seating was so prevalent, that I almost want to guess that it was removed by the gondolier once she was brought from Venice, CA to Alamitos Bay.
There is a board missing which usually sits flush to the deck, just behind the main seat. The only reason for that to be missing would be if it had been removed for some reason (like extra seating) and then lost.

The "pusioli" are the long "arm-pieces" that sit on the rails on either side of the aft half of the passenger area. Pusioli come in many forms. The ones on the Alamitos Bay gondola appear to have been the standard type with black paint, while the Newport pusioli look like they had the fuzzy shag-carpet trim.

Many of the details I've mentioned above have to do with removable parts.
The greatest difference between the two gondolas is a subtle but significant one that has to do with the structure.
I could be wrong here, because artists may have had a hand in things, but it seems that the Newport gondola has a slightly longer bow deck, while the Alamitos bow deck is shorter - allowing for a bit more passenger area.

If there really was a difference in deck length, I would guess that the two boats were built in different squeri.
Of course, there's always the possibility that a gondolier, like John Scarpa, asked for a gondola with a longer bow.
With what I've learned about him, that would not have been out of character.

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