The floating Grand Hotel

Architecture and art at sea

Since the publication of Le Corbusier’s Vers une architecture in 1924, ships became a place for artistic and architectural experimentation. In those same years, Arduino Berlam and Giò Ponti wrote that ships should not be decorated like ancient mansions; rather, as the most important and most modern means of travel, they should reflect the modern and functional tastes of their times, and serve as paradigms of modern architecture and art.

Changing the long-established “palace-ship” stereotype was no easy task, but when a competition was issued in 1929 for outfitting the motorship Victoria, the use of historical styles was explicitly banned in order to encourage avant-garde design. Lloyd’s new flagship became a masterpiece of 20th century aesthetics both on the inside and on the outside, thanks to close cooperation between the engineer Nicolò Costanzi and the architect Gustavo Pulitzer Finali. The latter availed himself of the leading avant-garde artists of the time, and the Victoria was an international sensation, celebrated by Ponti in a special issue of his magazine “Domus”.
From then on, Italian designers working in marine outfitting became fiercely competitive, which led Italian ships to become examples for the rest of the world: Italian works of art, furniture, and crafts became among the most renowned in their class worldwide.

M/n Victoria I Ponte A, cabina con bagno Deck A, cabin with bathroom 1931

M/n Victoria I
Deck A, cabin with bathroom

Marcello Mascherini and the ship décor

Marcello Mascherini (1906–1983) was undoubtedly the most renowned sculptor working in Trieste in the 20th century. He first teamed up with the architect Gustavo Pulitzer Finali in 1931, when he crafted two bronze busts of the King and the Duce for the ballroom of Lloyd Triestino’s motorship Victoria. His second job was also for one of Lloyd’s ships: in 1933 he crafted a female sculpture called Calitea, like the ship launched that same year by the Monfalcone shipyard. Two years later, he worked with Pulitzer to renovate the Saturnia and Vulcania, which introduced him to the famous Genoa-based shipping company Italia.

M. Mascherini Aborigeno australiano Legno intarsiato, 1951

M. Mascherini
Australian Aborigine
Inlaid wood

After World War II he resumed his collaboration with Lloyd and Pulitzer, by crafting a piece for the first-class vestibule of the motorship Australia, which was launched in 1950 in Trieste’s San Marco shipyards. This piece consisted of a pair of inlaid walnut sculptures titled Aborigeno e Canguro (the latter has now been lost).

Mascherini had reached the apex of his fame and career, and the shipowners that hired him to decorate their ships included numerous shipping companies, such as Venice’s Adriatica, Genoa’s Costa Armatori, and Panama’s Home Lines. In 1962 he was once again working for Lloyd, crafting a portrait of Guglielmo Marconi for the eponymous ship and two cast bronze sculptures for the ship’s first-class ballroom: Cavallo rampante and Chimera alata.

M/n Australia, bozzetto per la veranda bar di prima classe MS Australia, preparatory sketch for the first-class veranda bar 1950

M/n Australia,
MS Australia, preparatory sketch for the first-class veranda bar, 1950

Gustavo Pulitzer Finali and the “Novecento style”

During the 20th century, this Trieste-born architect (1887-1967) was one of the leaders in the naval interior design field in Italy and the United States. Between the two world wars, his projects dictated the evolution of the methods and tastes on how to outfit and decorate a ship, and brought Italy to the international forefront in this field. His first job for Lloyd Triestino – which proved to be crucial – dates back to 1930, when he was contracted to design most of the halls for the new motorship Victoria, the first “modern” ship to be built in Italy between the two world wars.

Pulitzer availed himself of the help of young Triestine artists such as August Cˇernigoj, Elena Fondra, and Marcello Mascherini who, together with the renowned Giò Ponti, Libero Andreotti, Pietro Chiesa and the young Polish sculptress Maryla Lednicka turned the ship’s vast halls into veritable decorative art galleries. Before World War II broke out, Lloyd hired Pulitzer’s Stuard studio to outfit the motorship Calitea, while in the immediate post-war period the studio designed several first-class halls for the motorships Australia (1950) and Europa (1952). The following year, the studio, building upon its pre-war experience, designed all of the interiors for the new motorship Victoria. Its last job for Lloyd came in 1962, when it designed several first-class halls for the ocean liner Galileo Galilei, the last flagship of the Lloyd fleet together with her twin ship Guglielmo Marconi.

P. Klodic Tevere a porto Said Olio su tela, 1922

P. Klodic
SS Tevere in Port Said
Oil on canvas, 1922

Paolo Klodic von Sabladoski

The “portrayer of ships” was born in Trieste in 1877, the son of Matilde Pagliaruzzi and Anton Ritter, a museum curator in Istria. He began his studies in Trieste and concluded them in Graz, where he earned a law degree that allowed him to be hired by the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Government at the Harbour Master’s office in Trieste, where he would remain until 1954.

He was a self-taught artist: at a very young age, he already showed great skill in drawing the ships berthing at Trieste. He never stopped doing this, and accumulated an impressive amount of sketches. He made his debut in 1906 at an exhibition in Innsbruck; he would then exhibit in Trieste, Graz, Koper, and at the Vienna Adriatic Exhibition of 1913. In 1926 he exhibited his work in Padua together with other leading painters from Venezia Giulia, and he followed that up with two exhibitions in Genoa in 1928 and 1935. His greatest success was his personal exhibition in London in 1950, organised by the Marine Artists Society.

Between the two world wars, Klodic worked for the leading Italian and international shipping companies, on whose behalf he painted a great many ship portraits used to produce posters and brochures to be distributed to tourist offices and shipping agencies worldwide. He also authored many of the large paintings used to decorate the sophisticated interiors of the main battleships launched in Trieste’s shipyards in the 1930s. He continued working with Lloyd until the final years of his life (he died in 1961), when he was also appointed curator of Trieste’s Museum of the Sea.