Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Monleon's Other Santa Maria

In discussions about the appearance of the Santa Maria, a frequently discussed item is the shape of the hull. Aside from Julio Guillen y Tato's 1929 version (which he considered a caravel), the Santa Maria is usually considered to be a nao, a small carrack.
At this point, it would probably behoove us to explain exactly what a carrack is.
Carracks were vessels that first appeared in the Mediterranean area in the 15th century. They contained both northern and southern design elements. The square sail was reintroduced to the area after northern cogs visited southern Europe in the 14th century, in the form of pirates, apparently. The sail form and single stern rudder would soon be added to southern vessels, leading to what might be considered the proto-carrack. Unlike the northern ships, these vessels did not use clinker or lapstrake hull construction, where the planks overlap. Instead, these new vessels used the normal edge on planking over a frame, or what is sometimes referred to as carvel planking. Not only is the hull smoother, it is also stronger.
By the early 15th century, the carrack had grown to three masts; fore, main and mizzen. In the Iberian states, carracks were frequently referred to as naos (Spanish) or naus (Portuguese). 
The Santa Maria was one such nao.
Most of the reconstructions of the Santa Maria referred to the vessel as a nao. Even Rafael Monleon y Torres, who believed that the word "caravel" was simply a colloquialism to describe small vessels, referred to the Santa Maria as a nao (confusingly, not only did he believe that the term "carabela" was applied to most small vessels, he also believed that proper caravels did exist as well). When he was working with the Spanish Commission in the early 1890's, he collaborated with Cesareo Fernandez Duro in working out the appearance of Columbus' vessels, but not the Santa Maria. The official Santa Maria was a collaborative effort, and the resulting ship, while beautiful, was controversial; it had features that were from later periods.
Monleon, of course, had his own version. 
His Santa Maria was, on the whole, a better design.

Still, it had that square stern.
This was not his first Santa Maria, though.
In 1885, seven years earlier, he did a large number of paintings showing the history of ships. One of these showed Columbus' "armada de la Indies".

This Santa Maria shows perhaps a little too much decoration astern, but does capture the appearance of a nao very nicely.

It's the shape of the stern, though, that sets this version apart. Unlike his final version, this Santa Maria has a round tucked stern.

Enhanced view of Santa Maria's  stern.
In other words, his early attempt had some features more correct than his later work.

Monleon's Santa Maria  in "El Centenario", vol. II, 1892.

Why the change? We can only guess. The only reconstruction of the Santa Maria from that period that had a round stern was the E. A. d'Albertis version, which also had the honor of being the largest design. Monleon's earlier Santa Maria still had some details wrong, but it was a step in the right direction, and much closer than the officially sanctioned replica.

ADDENDUM - 10 January, 2016 -
A little further information. The painting is a watercolor, and depicts the fleet off of Palos. While it may not be a true design, I am adding it to a list of Santa Maria reconstructions as the very first serious attempt.

No comments:

Post a Comment