Monday, August 27, 2018

Deck Details

Venice-built passenger gondolas all have roughly the same dimensions.
And by law they are all painted black.
But there are varying levels of finish.
Some boats have higher trim levels.
The more carvings the better.

If a gondola has fully-carved decks, 
that boat is known as a "wedding gondola".
There are currently only five of them in North America: 
one in Boston, Massachussettes,
one in Providence, Rhode Island,
one on dry display in Las Vegas,
and two in Newport Beach, California.

Interestingly, the two here in Newport were built one year apart - 
in 1960 and 1961.  
And while they were built in two different yards,
their deck carvings are nearly identical.

The reason: 
the same man carved the decks of both gondolas.

The man was mostly known by his nickname "Il Santo" (The Saint),
and he became famous because of his allegorical carvings.
I've heard that his mythological depictions inspired other carvers to offer similar creations for their clients, and that style of carving continues today.

In the case of the two Newport boats, those carvings feature Neptune riding a seahorse, with two mermaids ahead of him, and a trumpeting angel in front.
That's on the starboard side.  On the port side, the deck carvings depict the wife of Neptune on an aquatic horse, with two mermen ahead of her, and another trumpeting angel in the lead.

Il Santo was what Venetians call an "intagliador", and while many vocations might require some sort of workshop, an intagliador travels with his toolbag from squero to squero.  Sure, he probably did have a workspace for removable boat parts, but Il Santo would have had to perform the deck carvings where the boats were being built.

I can't help but wonder if Il Santo had any idea that his carvings would one day impress people in Southern California.


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