The grandest ship of antiquity, commissioned by Hieron II, King of Syracuse and designed by Archimedes, is revived in this perfect reconstruction by another great Syracusan, Guido Vallone, who loved his city and its historic splendors.
Il Modello è stato concesso al Museo Archimede e Leonardo di Siracusa e alla sua Direttrice, Maria Gabriella Capizzi dal LIONS CLUB SIRACUSA HOST
Guido Vallone (1926-1992)
One of the greatest exponents of the golden age of naval model-making, that is the ’60s and ’80s, when Vincenzo Lusci, a Florentine model-maker and divulgator, first in Italy to spread precise and detailed construction plans of naval models, formed a qualified group of model-makers motivated by genuine passion.
Guido Vallone, born and lived in Syracuse, first and foremost he was an old-fashioned doctor: his profession was a mission, always ready to rush, even in the middle of the night, to his patients, in need of care but also of comfort and support, to whom with his humility never failed to give hope and security of a speedy recovery. His patients, at least initially, were mostly concentrated in the old town center of Syracuse, the island of Ortigia, the ideal place to fall in love with the sea and the large and small boats that sailed it; in both Porto Grande and Porto Piccolo, as they are still called today, even though the importance of the city’s port has diminished, the young Vallone soon came into contact with the charm of the maritime world, small fishing boats as well as the warships that docked at the pier, sailboats and cruise ships, and it was love at first sight.
After his first timid but ingenious approaches to modeling by creating rudimentary works of cardboard, the great leap towards wood and its infinite possibilities took place around the age of thirty. So the first models were born and gifted to friends and relatives, and followed in the ’60s by more and more detailed works, such as La Couronne, a French galleon of 1636, the majestic Sovereign of the Seas, an English vessel of 1637, the San Felipe, a Spanish vessel of 1690. At the same time the systematic study of naval history and navigation was growing, only historical research allows the model maker to enter on board the model he is creating. So each new model was preceded by long and patient documentations found in various texts, mostly published abroad, so Vallone became the first in Italy to introduce models of ships unknown to modelers, since there were no construction plans or prefabricated material to build them. His first masterpiece was thus born, Le Soleil Royal, a French vessel of 1669-1692, Tourville’s flagship, of which only one model exists, devoid of equipment, made in 1839 by the model sculptor Tanneron who was inspired by the drawings of Jean Berain who had decorated the ship in 1689, preserved at the Musee de la Marine in Paris. Vallone’s model stunned everyone at the Exhibition of Antique Static Model Making which took place in Milan in 1970 and won the First European Prize at the exhibition. The great clamor aroused by this model led the director of the Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci in Milan to exhibit it for a three months period.
It was his family to convince the reluctant Guido to participate in the exhibition, the man was hesitant to appear, because he said, modeling was his passion, the one way he could evade the strenuous profession of doctor, and his creations were designed only for personal satisfaction, a sign of humbleness to the excess. In fact, after the
exhibition of 1970, Guido Vallone was showered with letters of admiration, requests for advice from young budding modellers, phone calls asking to visit him to admire his other models. Even Vincenzo Lusci, with whom a solid friendship had been established for some time, came to Syracuse as a guest of Vallone, leading to long discussions, comparisons, mutual advice, and outings to the waterfront or the Porto Piccolo, where a ravine was occupied by the “caulkers”, specialized in sealing the planking of boats with tar, a place where the two friends used to stop.
Vallone was also a fine draftsman and carver: all the sculptures of his models were patiently carved on hard box wood and finished with pure gold. You need only to look and admire the lavish paintings at the stern or the rich figureheads of his models to realize the skills of this unparalleled model maker.
Then followed the other models: the Prince, English vessel of 1670, Le Foudroyant, French vessel of 1734, to which Vallone, after years of research made his own construction plan, with the partial advice from a distant Jean Boudriot, author of various works on French Naval Archaeology ( well-known is his ” Le vaisseau de 74 canons “), the Royal Caroline, English royal yacht of 1749, the Victory, Nelson’s flagship at Trafalgar, 1805, Le Royal de France, mythical galley of 1680, the Cutty Sark and the Seine, from the golden age of clippers, the famous Titanic 1912, and lastly, homage to his city, the mythical Syrakosia.
The Syrakosia, also known as Archimedes’ Ship, was a floating city with temples and gardens, in the epoch (250-240 BC) designed and drawn by Archimedes and built by Archia of Corinth and Moschione, who describes it in a book. This text was then taken up by Athenaeus (II-III century AD), Greek scholar, who reproduced every feature in detail: from the length, 280 cubits (128 meters!) to the equipment, eight huge towers, defensive palisades and war machines. It is estimated that it was operated by approximately two thousand rowers arranged in three tiers. Too large for the ports of the time, Hieron II, tyrant of the city who had personally followed the work, sent it to Ptolemy of Egypt, loaded with grain, in the name of friendship and to demonstrate the grandeur of Syracuse.
For the construction of the model Vallone made a scrupulous but unavoidably incomplete historical research, due to the scarcity of sources (Cassol, Midolo, Ambone), that did not prevent him to give birth to another masterpiece, a beautiful catamaran (such was the structure of the ship) which is striking for its bright colors but more still for the precision of the details.