The Gondolier

Are you the type of person who likes to know how things work?  I am and sometimes to such an extent friends and family roll their eyes. In spite of that I found the analysis of gondolas irresistible and began to study and photograph them.

The Gondola has been  around for centuries and was the chief means of transportation in Venice until finally giving way to power boats. There were about 10,000 gondolas in use by the 17th and 18th centuries although the designs were quite varied. Today’s gondola is 35.5 feet long and 4.5 feet wide with a weight of 1,500 lbs (700 kg). They are constructed of 280 hand-made pieces using eight types of wood and all are painted in shiny black lacquer. This current design including the color was mandated by law in the 1950s. I especially like the forcola, the piece that serves as an oarlock to hold the rèmo (oar).  Also the gondola by design is longer on the left side (port) than the right (starboard) giving the vessel a crooked appearance. The purpose of this design is to enhance the vessel’s ability to travel on a straight course while being rowed from only the right (starboard) side. (I must give credit to my research sources of Wikpedia, the Gondoliers in person and the Forcole shop in Venice:

Then of course there is the gondolier! The profession of gondolier is controlled by a guild, which issues a limited number of licenses, granted after periods of training (400 hours over six months) and apprenticeship, and a major comprehensive exam which tests knowledge of Venetian history and landmarks, foreign language skills, and practical skills in handling the gondola.

I love this stuff and if it was a Jeopardy category I would be highly competitive! Are your eyes rolling yet? Enough gondola trivia, let me show you what all of this inspired in me.

I did much more prep and sketching for this painting than usual as you can see from the above photos.

For this painting I worked primarily from one reference photo (courtesy of my wife Pamela Haack) and a few others. The primary photo was of a gondola on the Grande Canal in Venice rowing in the wake of a large public transportation power vessel, a Vaporetto.  The struggle between power vessels and the bygone era of the gondola              (gondolas are primarily used for tourism now) inspired this painting.

gondola 10.1
The Gondolier, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 cm (12 x 16 in)

Oddly enough as much as I love these vessels I have not been on one! Perhaps it is time for me to do that!!!! I hope you will enjoy viewing this painting!





4 thoughts on “The Gondolier

  1. what a labor of love all that perspective is, and it paid off! I love the creamy yellows and the water reflection. I’d love to see you paint something like this about five feet across!!!!


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