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)


  1. Many thanks for sharing, Robert!
    How can I find the next post about this exhibition?
    Have a nice day!!

    1. Thanks Igor. The next post hasn't been written yet. If you subscribe to the feed, you'll know as soon as it's published.

    2. Hi Robert,

      The “India, Pirogue with rowers” boat is from Kerala on the west coast. In English they’re called ‘snake boats’, locally called Chundan-Vallums. They’re used in a specific yearly boat race, are 158 feet long, have 100 passengers of which 64 are paddlers, 4 or 5 man steering rudders, and some chanters. I believe there are 5 or so other related types [some for females only] used in similar races. They were historically used as naval vessels
      For example, Chundan-Vallum:

      and another related - the Iruttukuthy-Vallam which supported the Chundans in battle:


      The “Sri Lanka: Boat with fisherman” is a real boat made from the trunk of the sugar palm. I’m not sure about Sri Lanka, but they can still be found in the upper parts of the Godavari River around Lake Kolleru and Kondakarla. They’ve been variously called Shoe Dhoni [by Hornell], Toddytrunk boats or I think Touktnouts. They are used singly [but often are paired up as well].
      For example:

      There are at least 2 other related, but less dramatic [waterline parallel sheerlines] boats:
      one in Cambodia, the Rua Pong

      and the other in Thailand, the sugar palm dugout [I don’t know its proper name].

      However the holy-grail of these has to be the decked 26 foot long sewn plank version of these [Shoe Dhonis] that Hornell saw in the Godivari delta near the coast.

      mick allen

  2. Mick, Thank you for these references. I just came across the sugar palm boat in Hornell's "Water Transport," but all the photos for which you provided links are wonderful. Highly recommend to other readers that you copy/paste the URLs into your browser and take a look.
    BTW: Does anyone knows how to make links live in the Comments in Blogspot?

  3. Bamboo rafts with cormorants...

  4. Thank you June Fourth for this link. Readers, I recommend you follow it for fine BBC video of cormorant fishing. See the raft in the upper left corner of image #14 in this post.