The rowlock of a Venetian gondola is made of a single piece of walnut wood and is named “Forcola” in Italian. Its elbow-like shape with the different hooks and recesses allows to use the oar to fully navigate the gondola even in the most narrow canals.
Saverio Pastor is one of the most famous forcola makers, and I was lucky to get the opportunity to photograph in his workshop in Dorsoduro, Venice. He is a very unpretentious man, and in the same way he seems to work on the forcole: The form hidden in the wood gets sculpted out, and its shape follows nothing but the function in the gondola – and becomes a piece of marvellous beauty. No wonder that his masterpieces made it into the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and in the private collections of I. M. Pei and Frank Gehry.
The “La Forcola” gallery is here.