Model of the brigantine pole schooner G. Oberdan
First quarter of the 20th century
Elm wood, rigging in various materials
Height (including base) 28.74 in (73 cm), x width 39.76 in (101 cm) x depth 12.59 in (32 cm)
State of conservation:
almost excellent, but with a glued bowsprit tip.
The brigantine is a sailing ship usually equipped with two masts.
If it has a third at the stern, it is called a schooner (“brigantino a palo” in Italian) and, depending on the type of sails that each mast carries, it may also have other names.
These sailing ships, with some variations, were built in northern Italy until the end of the nineteenth century and reliably sailed routes to and from the United States (see the flag on the foremast), Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Peru carrying mainly emigrants and returning loads of grain, hides, guano, nitrates, etc.
The proper mix between transverse sails (square) and cut sails (auric mainsails) gave a perfect balance to the vessel, allowing it to safely tackle long crossings and challenging seas.
Guglielmo Oberdan (Trieste, 1858 – 1882) was a famous patriot from Trieste, who was executed by the Austrians for treason (Trieste then belonged to the Habsburg empire and was not to become part of Italian territory until 1920).
Immediately after his execution on December 20th, Oberdan became the symbol of Italian irredentist patriotism and, until the end of the First World War, propaganda used his name to build domestic support against Austria.
Most Italian cities have named a street or a square after him; many schools still bear his name. In the collective imagination of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Oberdan represented the heroic icon of a young paladin who sacrificed himself for his Country.
It is in this period and in this atmosphere that our sailing ship received such a significant name as Guglielmo Oberdan. We can only imagine that a sense of pride would have soothed the pain and nostalgia of those who embarked on this ship in search of better fortunes in a distant country.
Photo: Fabrizio Stipari