June Artifact of the Month – Gondola Mania!

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Miniature Venetian gondola. courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum.
Miniature Venetian gondola. courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum.

This month we’re taking a look at two very similar, but also very different, items that we have here at The Mariners’ Museum. We have two gondolas within our collection, a miniature work of a Venetian goldsmith that measures 2 and 1/8″ long, and a full size gondola that measures a whopping 35 feet and 8 inches long, and weighs about 1,100 pounds.

The miniature is made to scale of approximately 1:192, and it has two gondoliers included on the boat. The standing gondolier is 3/8 inch, while the second gondolier is sitting down, in front of the canopy which is hinged and can be opened. The seated gondolier is unique to the style of gondola’s prior to 1791, when the struggling Venetian state had to change to one man gondolas in order to downsize spending and save money. (That’s a downsize rate of 50 %!) The little gondola is made up of 18 carat gold, and decorated with gold filigree. The Mariners’ Museum purchased it from the Bodley Book Shop in New York in 1939, and while the exact goldsmith who created it is unknown, it is thought to have been made around 1840. In 1996, The Mariners’ Museum based a Christmas ornament on the miniature as part of a series of ornaments that were designed after pieces of the collection. The ornament was coated in 24 carat gold and available for purchase in the Gift store.   Read more