Monday, January 21, 2013

Models, Replicas & Interpretations - How Do You Proceed?

There are plenty of different model kits of historic sailing vessels, in both plastic and wood (as well as more unusual materials like metal, card and even paper). Most of these models can be traced back to research done by maritime historians and artists. Some of the models that are produced of some historic vessels can be traced to replicas based upon the work of the aforementioned historians and artists.
This is where the conundrum comes in, especially in the case of even older vessels; in most cases, these are not models of the vessel per se, but of an interpretation, even a full sized replica. You are building something based upon someone else's work.
This isn't a bad thing at all, but can be a little confusing. 
Many of the model builders I run into endeavor to "correct" the vessel. Things like rigging, deck and hull details, color scheme, et cetera. They  research how vessels should be rigged for the period and try to include these in the model. Many times, they draw from multiple sources to complete the model.
The question is, are they really building the model as it was meant to be, or as they think it should be?
Again, this isn't a bad thing; much of what the model builder as artist really comes down to what they want, they apply their own artistic license to the product. 
When you encounter vessels like the Santa Maria, or other vessels from the 16th century and earlier, you run into real problems. While there are only a few different interpretations of vessels like, say, the Mayflower (four that I am aware of, and two are very similar), the Santa Maria has around ten different interpretations. 
Aside from the wooden kits, the two most common Santa Maria interpretations found in kit form are the Fernandez Duro/Spanish Commission version from 1892 and the Julio Guillen y Tato version from 1929. If you pick up a Santa Maria kit from the Duro design, say one of those fairly simple wooden kits from Scientific, and want to correct or enhance the rigging, how do you proceed? Do you pick up a copy of Wolfram zu Mondfeld's "Historic Ship Models" and study the rigging section? Do you do a Google search for "Santa Maria"?
Unless you know which version you're building, this can be a conundrum. You're building this version, but you're finding rigging information for ships that don't look like the same. The manufacturers seldom include notes about the origin of the design (some exceptions are the original 1/75 Heller Santa Maria, where they thank Julio Guillen y Tato for his assistance). The Scientific kit is the Duro 1892 version, and is significantly different in appearance, let alone rig, to the Guillen 1929 version.
It can be done, and oftentimes the end result is lovely.
Possibly incorrect, but lovely (though I will admit that "incorrect" is a bit of a harsh term; after all, we really know nothing of the Santa Maria's true appearance). 
In a way, you end up with your own interpretation when you go this route. This is neither right nor wrong; again, it is up to you how you wish to proceed.
But if you want to build the model based upon the work of that original design, you need to know which one it is.
The end product is a model of that interpretation. It can be thought of as a model of a model.
If that's what you want. It's all about choice, I suppose.
And that's a good thing.


  1. I would have never fathomed (heh) such complexities existed for the model builder. This is a very eye opening post, Robert, and as I have always loved the work you do from the miniatures on up to the very large versions of these great vessels, I applaud you!

    1. Why, thank you very much! I will always love ships, no matter the size, I suspect!