Western European Metal Artworks

Nave-ship (table decoration)

    Nave-ship (table decoration)

    Germany, Hanau

    late 19th century

    Neresheimer & Co

    Silver; casting, chasing, engraving, gilding

    Height 81 cm

    Marks: "Neresheimer", city of Hanau, London import mark 1899


    The tradition of manufacturing tiny nave ships was originated in the Middle Ages in Germany and in Holland. Naves in the form of ships were very popular and symbolic interior objects in Western Europe in XIV-XVI centuries. As well as having utilitarian functions, such as decoration of merry feasts, storage of wine or spices, these objects were allocated with a certain sacral value as well. It was considered that naves protected food and drinks from poison, and, therefore, were capable to save their owners from death and from hardships during the difficulties of everyday life as well, or to give hope to those who suffered the shipwreck. However, by the 16th century ships-cups became irrelevant, they fade into the desktop ornament. The tiny models of ships with corresponding equipment and complete rigging distinguished by a masterful delicacy of work became popular and gained the greatest recognition at that time. This phenomenon somehow reflected the major achievements in navigation and great geographical discoveries.

    The European jewellers of the second half of the 19th century who worked in Historicism style – the style which was characterized by reconstruction of old forms and using the ornamental motive patterns from the gone epochs – turned to the reproduction of the similar desktop decoration.

    Table decoration in the form of three-masted ship with a keel, with flattering banners, with five hoisted goosewing sails and two folded sails. A  basket for looking out sailors is on each mast (the co-called "mars" or "crow's nest"). The ship's hull is decorated with chased images of sea gods and Nereids inside cartouches. The cordage (rigging} of the ship, its crew and large cannon barrels are reproduced in the smallest details. They are visible through the apertures located along the boards on both sides. The desktop-hamper is dominating on the stern. The name of the ship "Neptune" is written on the stern. The snout of a ship is designed as an openwork lattice and completed with an anchor. On the end of it is A bowsprit with a small mast and a banner and a large Neptune figure with trident in his hand. The nave-ship is fixed on four openwork wheels.