Monday, January 19, 2009

Half-Size Gondola

Several years ago this rare Venetian craft ended up on E-bay. I was intrigued, and investigated her.

By the photos, she looked just like a standard, Venice-built gondola, maybe a little fancy in the parecio, and the carvings on the deck were a bit more dramatic.
Otherwise all the details were there, but the auction description said that the gondola was about twenty feet long.
Then I looked again at the photos and noticed that while the boat resembled an eleven-meter gondola, the background seemed off.
There was no way a full-size gondola would fit in a garage, or a room with a ceiling of normal height.

Everything is half-sized on this boat - even the ferro is a miniature version of the standard design.

After some research, I learned that this was not an American attempt at making a gondola of "manageable size", it wasn't some boat-building student's final project,
no, this was a Venetian gondola.

The Tramontin family built a limited number of these half-sized gondolas in the early part of the 20th Century.
They were used mostly in parades - children would ride as passengers, and young boys would row in full costume.
I've seen a picture of it, and yes, it's the cutest thing ever.

look at all that half-sized stuff.

Rumor has it that the Tramontin squero built a half-dozen of these vessels.
I've heard that other half-sized gondolas may have been built in earlier centuries, but I haven't been able to confirm that.

The boat, while unique and very rare, can't really be used for passenger service (except for kids, and we don't get many requests like that).
These were intended to be fully functioning scale models, but too small for normal use.
A skilled gondolier, who's not very big, could probably row the boat, and two passengers might be able to sit facing each other, but those are a lot of what-if's.

I wanted the boat, but it wouldn't pencil out - storage alone would cost more than I could justify.

The brass plate indicates that the gondola was built when Nedis was in charge of the Tramontin squero.

Via e-mail, Gilberto Penzo urged me to buy the half-sized gondola, but with a new baby and a bunch of other boats to maintain, I had to let her go. At the time of auction, the boat was in the US - I can only guess how she ended up here.

I'm not sure where this half-size gondola is now,
but with any luck she will end up in a museum where we can all see her.


René Seindal said...

Greg, why don't you just write Roberto and ask him?

Have a a look here
and here

especially the notes:

"1959 La Gondola Restaurant 1503 N. Meridian Streed Indianapolis Indiana USA (scala ½)"

and even smaller models:

"Giovanni Tramontin mostra al figlio Nedis il modello in scala 1/10 di una gondola costruita nel 1930 e poi venduta a Indianapolis nel 1945"

I'm sure Roberto will be please to answer all your questions. He does have an email address on the website.

Sean said...

I need one of these.

René Seindal said...

Sean, I'm quite sure Tramontin will make you one. Just start saving :-)

Normally the hull alone from Tramontin will cost you around €30000.

Anonymous said...

Is there a dimensions problem? Normally if a boat is reduced to half-size, it will have just 1/8th carrying capacity (volume to displace water).

A normal gondola will take one or two crew and up to six adult guests, so a half-sized boat should have difficulty holding the two guests and the one crew load Greg has suggested.

Anyhow this elaborate mini gondola is probably the thing a royal household would buy for an infant price or princess, if they ever grew bored of pony horses or doll-houses.

Gondola Greg said...

Having never rowed a half-sized gondola, and having never met anyone who has either, I can only speculate.
But my concern with the size of the boat is strictly focused on beam.
At half length, she's still plenty long, but if she's half the beam of a standard gondola, we're talking about a canoe here.
A gondolier of small stature could probably carry two adult passengers if they sat across from each other, but sitting side-by-side would be, in my estimation, out of the question.

René Seindal said...

It depends on what you mean by half size.

If you half each dimension (length, beam, height) you'll have a 1/8th size boat by volume as (1/2)^3 = 1/8

To get a half size boat by volume you only have to reduce each dimension to 80% as 0,8^3 ~= 0,5