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.
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.