Western European Metal Artworks

Nave-ship (table decoration)

    Nave-ship (table decoration)

    Germany, Hanau

    late 19th century

    Silver; casting, chasing, engraving, gilding

    Height 48.3 cm

    City mark of Hanau


    The tradition of manufacturing tiny nave ships was originated in the Middle Ages in Germany and in Holland. Being symbols of life, votive objects, they served as well as vessels for wine used during the nobility meals, saltcellars or cruet-stands and, finally, table decorations, which were placed in front of the guests of honor. 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 a shipwreck. However, by the 16th century naves-cups had become irrelevant, they faded into the table 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 the Historicism style – the style which was characterized by reconstruction of old forms and using the ornamental patterns that belonged to the gone epochs – turned to the reproduction of the similar table decoration.

    Table decoration (and a vessel at the same time) in the form of two-masted ship with fluttering banners, one of them at the stern with four hoisted sails. Baskets with looking out sailors are fixed on each mast (the co-called top-lift or crow's nest). The ship's hull is decorated with chased images of Sea Gods and Nereids against the waves. 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. A tower with a hipped roof with a flag and figures sitting in the rostrum of the ship is in the center. The anchor goes down from the ship snout. The ship is mounted on four openwork wheels.