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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Vatican boat model exhibit, Part 3


This is the final post about a current exhibit of boat models and canoe paddles at the Vatican Museums. Previous posts about this exhibit cover the other models representing boats from outside the Western tradition, and one full-size canoe from the Solomon Islands. As noted in the previous posts, exhibit signage was sparse. We reproduce the English text of the exhibit cards in quotation marks. Our own comments appear in parentheses. As always, click any image to enlarge.

model: "Tahiti: Catamaran"
"Tahiti: Catamaran" (The two hulls are essentially the same but with their ends reversed. The boat should perform the same in either direction when it shunts.)
model Maori war canoe
"Aotearoa New Zealand: Maori boat" (A monohull war canoe. See our earlier post on boats like this.)
model 3-hull catamaran, New Guinea
"Papua New Guinea: Three hull catamaran" (beautiful double crab-claw rig)
model 3-hull catamaran, New Guinea
(Same model as above, showing the hull configuration.)
model New Guinea outrigger paddling canoe
"Papua New Guinea: Boat with outrigger" (The main hull is a dugout with high washstrakes stitched in place)
model Solomon Islands monohull canoe
"Solomon (Islands): Canoe with bird shaped bow" (Somewhat similar to the full-size canoe that serves as the exhibit's centerpiece.)
"Fiji: Sailing boat" (Twin-hull canoe with oceanic lateen sail)
"Fiji: Sailing boat" (Twin-hull canoe with oceanic lateen sail)
"Fiji: Sailing boat" (Twin-hull canoe with oceanic lateen sail)
(Same model as previous. The port hull is much smaller and shorter than the starboard, but it is nonetheless a true hull, not an outrigger float.)
model Alakaluf Canoe, Chile
"Chile; Alakaluf Canoe" (This looks much like the Yamana/Yaghan canoe we've written about previously.)
model kayak-form canoe
"Alaska: Canoe" (Adney called this a "kayak-form canoe.")
model Yaghan (Yamana) canoe
"Chile: Yaghan (Yamana) canoe" (Images created by Europeans show greatly different forms of Yaghan or Yamana canoes. See the Alakaluf canoe two images above.)
model bark canoe with full decks
"Canada: Canoe" (...and a rather fanciful one at that! We're not aware of any bark canoes built with full decks and a round cockpit coaming. The modeler seems to be combining aspects of the open bark canoe with the skin-on-frame kayaks of Alaska.)
model Caraja river boat, Brazil
"Brazil: Caraja river boat" (The cargo of what appears to represent a dugout canoe is probably tortoises or sea turtles. At the right is a pregnant woman; at the left, a baby.)
models, Alaska and Canada bark canoes
background: "Canada: Canoe"
foreground: "Alaska: Bark canoe"
model twin-hull raft from Bolivia
"Bolivia: Mosetenes raft" (A double-hull raft. Perhaps it is built to be separated, so that it can be used as two smaller craft.)
model reed boat, Lake Titicaca
"Peru - Bolivia: Ayamara boat"(A reed boat of the type used on Lake Titicaca.)
bark canoe models, USA
background: "Rocky Mountains: Canoe"
foreground: "USA: Canoe"
(Both are birchbark types.)
model canoes, Madagascar
background: "Madagascar: Dugout canoe"
middle-right: "Madagascar: Dugout canoe"
left: "...West Coast" (presumably Africa; we failed to capture the full label text)
front-right: "Madagascar: Dugout canoe"
model coracle, Mozambique
"Mozambique: Raft" (We'd call this a coracle, not a raft, since it relies on the enclosure of space for buoyancy. The model is made from a single piece of bent bark. If the full-size boat is built the same way, it must be quite small, or else it requires an enormously wide tree.)
model outrigger sailing canoe, Africa east coast
"Africa - East Coast: Sailing boat with outrigger" (The main hull is extraordinarily narrow and highly rockered. This must be a thrilling boat to sail.)
models Congo dugout canoes
background: "Congo: Canoe with rower" (a paddler, in fact)
foreground: "Congo: Canoe"
model boats, Nigeria
background: "Nigeria: Boat with two rowers" (paddlers)
middle: "Nigeria: Boat with passengers"
front: "Nigeria: Boat with passengers"
(All three represent dugouts with an aft platform carved as an integral part of the hull for the stern paddler/helmsman. Locating the paddle force so far aft of the submerged part of the hull lends a great deal of power for turning and correcting strokes, making these boats highly maneuverable.) 
model Yoruba dugout canoes, Nigeria
"Nigeria: Yoruba boats: H.E. Mons, Carlo Maria ViganĂ²" (These were the only models in the exhibit credited to whom we assume was the donor or lender.)
canoe paddle display, Vatican Museums
A nice selection of canoe paddles were exhibited at the end of each of the spiral levels of the hall, unfortunately with no exhibit cards or other identification. (This photo by Cate Monroe)
canoe paddle display, Vatican Museums
A closer look at the paddles on the middle level.

(All images by the blogger except as noted.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Vatican boat model exhibit, Part 2

In a current temporary exhibit at the Vatican Museums, dozens of models of watercraft from numerous nations and cultures are presented to represent the diversity and interconnectedness of humanity. (See our previous post on this exhibit.) The models are displayed in glass cases (hence the poor quality of the photos that follow) with little explanatory material. 

We present our photos with the scanty information from the exhibit cards in quotation marks, and our own brief observations in parentheses. We invite readers to contribute additional information about any boat in the Comments. Only models representing craft from "outside the Western tradition" are included here. More images of other models from the exhibit will follow in a subsequent post. As always, click any image to enlarge.
"Japan: Sailing boat" (looks like it would be highly capable in surf)
"Indonesia: Sailing boat with outrigger" -- (actually two outriggers. Although the rig is set as a square sail, it appears to be hung asymmetrically on the mast and can probably be canted to form a kind of lugsail.)
"Philippines: Sailing boat with outrigger" -- (again, two outriggers. This is a banca, with a Western-style sailing rig.)
"Sri Lanka: Boat with fisherman" (We wonder if the model attempts to represent any real type of boat, or if it is purely fanciful, its shape dictated by the material available to the modeler. What's surprising and touching about this model is the paddler, who is modeled with a great deal of humanity.)
"India: Pirogue with rowers" (paddlers, actually)
"China: Boat for recreation" (and by that, we mean eating, drinking and sex.)
(background) "India: Pirogue with rowers" (again, paddlers in fact)
"Thailand: Royal boat" (identical exhibit cards for both models)
"China: Sea Junk" (The truncated bow and minimal rig are fascinating aspects of this model, which is certainly not meant to be an accurate representation.)
"Southeast Asia: River boat" (a sampan)
"China: Sea Junk with three masts"
"China: River boat"
"China: Dragon boat for racing"
(Nationality not identified)
Back row:
Left: "Raft for fishing with cormorants"
Center: "Houseboat with passenger and boatmen" (Error in labeling, as this open craft is clearly not a houseboat. The Italian label identifies it as a sampan with a passenger and a boatman)
Right: (label illegible in photo)

Front row: 
Left: "Houseboat with coxswain"
Center: "Houseboat with passenger and boatmen" (Error in labeling, as this open craft is clearly not a houseboat. The Italian label identifies it as a sampan with a passenger and a boatman)
Right: "Houseboat with fisherman"
"Samoa: Seven paddle canoe" (Noticeable similarities to a Samoan canoe in our post about Buckminster Fuller's model collection)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Solomon Islands Canoe at the Vatican

On a trip to Italy this month, we visited the Vatican Museums, eager to see masterpieces like the Laocoon group and the Apollo Belvedere. Upon entering, however, the first thing we saw was this plank-built canoe, an eye-catching introduction to an extensive temporary exhibit of boat models and paddles from around the world.

Stern view of a Solomon Islands mon canoe at the Vatican.
Stern view of a Solomon Islands mon canoe at the Vatican. (Click any image to enlarge.)
Bow of the Solomon Islands mon canoe at the Vatican.
Bow of the Solomon Islands mon canoe at the Vatican.
The Vatican's stated purpose for the exhibit is to represent of the diversity and interconnectedness of world cultures. The curators were far more interested in communicating that ecumenical message than in the details of the items on display, for we saw nothing to identify the boat or paddles on exhibit, and the models were accompanied by only scanty information. Nevertheless, we'll concentrate on the exhibit's sole full-size boat in this post, and move on to the paddles and models in subsequent posts.

We believe the canoe is from the Solomon Islands. Haddon and Hornell (in Canoes of Oceania, Vol. 2) identify four types of plank-built monohull canoes in the Solomons. Those with continuous washstrakes like the one here were called mon and were characteristic of the central Solomons, including Bougainville, New Georgia, and Choiseul. 

In contrast, canoes called lisi, with discontinuous washstrakes both fore and aft, were characteristic of the southern part of the chain (including Guadalcanal, Malaita and San Cristoval) and of the tiny island of Buka, at the chain's northernmost end. With the exception of its discontinuous washstrakes, the following image of a Buka canoe observed in 1753 by Labillardiere is very much like the canoe in the Vatican. (See also our post on a Solomon Islands canoe at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, which we now recognize as a lisi.) 


Solomon Islands "lisi" canoe from Labillardiere (1800)
"Buka Island Canoe (Solomon Islands)" from Labillardiere (1800), Atlas pour servir a la relation du voyage de la recherche de la Perouse.
(Source: University of Cambridge)
Frame and plank lashings, Solomon Islands canoe
Bent (?) frames amidships, with decorative carving at the upper ends, are lashed to cleats on the planks' interior surface. Also in view is the seat riser.
The exhibit canoe is built of long parallel planks with no keel. Each plank is gotten out with cleats left standing proud on its interior surface near the lower edges, one cleat per rib. These cleats are lashed to ribs with vegetable fiber and caulked with resin made from the "putty nut" (Parinarium laurinum).

Carved frame/thwart units in a Solomon Islands canoe
Carved frame/thwart units near the bow.
Most of the ribs are roughly round in section and appear to be bent to shape, their top ends being carved with faces that are decorated with eyes of shell inlay. The two forward-most frames and accompanying thwarts are carved from single pieces of wood, and painted, carved decorative elements appear within that perimeter. Continuous thwart risers are lashed to the ribs and run nearly the whole length of the boat, supporting multiple seats for paddlers and passengers.


Bow detail of Solomon Islands canoe
Bow detail showing a carving of a horned beast (or demon?) at the waterline, extensive shell inlay, and cowry shells lashed to the forward surface of the stem well above the waterline.
The most distinctive feature of the canoe is its tall, elaborately decorated prow and stern. The outboard surfaces of these features are inlaid with thousands of pieces of carved shell in circle and cross patterns, and the decks feature diamond-pattern shell inlays. A grotesque painted and carved animal head (a goat? a demon?) sits right at the waterline on the cutwater with its horns on either side of the stem. Cowry shells are lashed to the fronts of both the stem and sternpost high above the waterline. The stem is capped with a painted carving of two parrot-like birds facing one another over a bulb-topped post that might represent fruit on a tree. The sternpost also features a painted carving at the top of an obscure geometric design.


Stem-head decoration of Solomon Islands canoe
Carved stem-head decoration

Sources: 
Canoes of the Solomon Islands by R.J.A.W. Lever.
"Canoes of the Solomon Islands," from The Maori Canoe by Elsdon Best
Canoes of Oceania, Vol. II: The Canoes of Melanesia, Queensland, and New Guinea, by A.C. Haddon and James Hornell