Western European Metal Artworks

Nave-ship (table decoration)

    Nave-ship (table decoration)

    Germany, Hanau

    Late 19th century

    Neresheimer Ludwig & Co

    Silver; casting, chasing, engraving, gilding

    90.0 x 84.0 x 22.0 cm

    Marks are on sails, flags and the marine hull; by Nerescheimer Co., Hanau, import English (London) mark 1900


    The tradition of making miniature nave ships by jewellers in Germany and Holland dates back to the Middle Ages. They were symbols of life, votive objects, they also served as wine vessels at secular meals, saltcellars or cruet-stands for spice and, finally, as table decorations, which were set in front of a distinguished guest. Due to their sacred significance, naves were supposed to protect spices from poisoning and thus protect their owners from intoxication, as well as from miseries and the ups and downs of life or promise salvation during shipwreck. However, as early as in the 16th century ships goblets lost this signification and became mere table decoration. Miniature models of ships with the appropriate rigging and full equipment, characterized by complexity of design, accuracy and subtlety of execution, were wide spread at that time, which might be considered as a resonance to the great geographical discoveries and navigation advance.

    European jewellers of the second half of the 19th century that worked in the Historism style, once more referred to "reproduction" of similar table decorations, the style characterized by reconstruction and repeating of ancient forms and borrowing ornamental motifs from the bygone era art.

    Table decoration in the shape of three-masted ship with a keel, with wind-blown flags and banners, with five hoist square and two furled sails. Baskets (the so-called “top sail” or "crow's nest") for lookout sailors are fixed on each pillar. The ship hull is decorated with chiseled images of sea Gods and nereids in cartouches. The vessel rigging, its numerous crew and cannons, the barrels of which are visible through the apertures on both sides of the ship, are rendered in in exquisite detail.

    The deck housing is dominating on the ship after body; the ship name 'Neptune' is written on the stern. The open-work mesh shaped fore, complemented by the anchor, is accomplished by bowsprit with small pillar with the flag on the end and rather large figure of the God Neptune sitting on it, with a trident in his hand. The nave is mounted on four open-work wheels.