Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bacino Orseolo - More than Just Red Seats

For a "gondola fanatic", there's no shortage of gondolas to look at and details to discover in Venice's Bacino Orseolo.

Today's photo is filled with cool details.
For most of you though, the red seats were probably the first thing that caught your eye.
Followed perhaps by the question "why is the seat flipped up?"

Gondoliers in Venice often flip up the bench-seat. It minimizes the sun's damage, and in a place like Orseolo where gondolas are rafted up by the dozen - I'd imagine that it keeps other gondoliers from stepping on your seat while they make their way across.

Now let's take a look at the rest of the shot.

Starting with the gondola closest to the camera; based on the carved deck and quality of the parecio in view, we can tell that she's a wedding gondola. Carved decks are a hallmark feature of a wedding gondola, and many only have carvings on the bow and stern decks. More extreme ones have carvings along this rail area - a part of the boat known as the "nerva".

The forward buso (hole for a forcola) has an impressive buso-plate. Gold paint (or possible gold-leaf) adorns both the fodra and pusiol. The cavallo mounted on that pusiol is a "trumpeting angel" design in standard brass finish. The trim throughout the boat looks to be stainless steel rather than brass. While we can only see a tiny fraction of the floor, it appears to be a black-on-black design with gloss and flat contrasting (the flat could be a non-skid surface).

If you haven't already figured it out, the gondola closest to the camera is the same one we looked at in my "Scimier of Justice" post not too long ago.

Based on another photo I took during this session, I can tell you that the red-seat gondola is not a wedding gondola, but her owner makes up for it with several nice additions. The most eye-catching feature on this boat might be her cavalli - these are a somewhat unique variation of the "hippocampus" design.
It's not the variation on the horse configuration though that grabs the attention - it's the gold plating. Getting these babies plated isn't cheap, but you get a lot of "bang for your buck" with gold. The cavalli sit on some nice, solid pusioli which have no intricate detail - they seem to draw ones attention toward other details on the boat. The fodre (boards mounted to the inside of the salon area) are not as subtle; dramatic black dragon-like creatures embellish a field of gold-leaf, with a circular coin design.

That coin design can also be seen above the seat in the center of the scimier. It's an artist's interpretation of the 5 Lire coin which was in use before Italy went to the Euro. Actual 5 Lire coins weren't gold, they were an alloy with a silver finish. The date on the coin is 1962 - I'd be willing to bet 5 Lire that the owner of this gondola was born in 1962. I did a little research, and it looks like this coin, known by some as a "delfino" wasn't actually pressed during 1962. They were minted from 1951 to 1998, but certain years saw no production of this coin.
If that's true, I wonder if that gondolier knows it.

Solidly built banchete (little benches) and one of the one-armed chairs are visible.
This boat also appears to have stainless steel trim.

Red is a theme color on this gondola. There are the obvious red seats, traditional red floorboards, the gondolier's hat sticking up has red ribbon, we can see the corner of a red tapeto (carpet for the gondolier), and the whole thing ties together with a red and black rope and pom-pom setup which are curiously tied to those cavalli - perhaps for safe keeping.

The gondola behind the red-seat boat looks more like the standard vessels we see in Venetian traghetti. Seats are black, and there is no tapeto. Many of the gondolas in Bacino Orseolo are rafted with their forcolas out; often on the deck. As boats come and go, I imagine forcole can get hung up on the ferro or tail of another gondola. The forcola on this boat has a shim-piece mounted to the inside of the gamba (the part that goes into the boat), this helps ensure a good fit without tapping in wedges each time the forcola is put in place.

The last boat in the frame still has her forcola in place. Perhaps she's just come in or is about to depart. Like the boat she's next to, this gondola has brass trim and no tapeto. The gondolier has two remi stowed at the back of the boat. Both oars have been repaired, with a darker wood having been scarfed into the area that gets worn over time.

At first glance, this looks like a jumble of gondolas - one with red seats. But as we look deeper, and examine the details, we see so much more.
And if you've read through it all with me, then you too are probably a "gondola fanatic".


Tamás said...

> one-armed chair visible

You need to explain that to complete the gondola fanatic treatise! (There is probably some background story to the tradition, besides the practical benefits of one-armed maritime furniture?)

Gondola Greg said...

Oh yes, I expect we'll spend some quality time in the future examining one-armed chairs.

emilia said...

Do you have some friends gondolieri in Venice?