Western European Metal Artworks

Nave-ship (table decoration)

    Nave-ship (table decoration)

    Germany, Hanau

    Late 19th century

    Silver; casting, chasing, engraving, gilding

    49.0 x 38.0 x 12.5 cm

    Marks on the sails, hull and flag


    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 the distinguished guest. Due to their sacred significance, naves were supposed to fend spices from poisoning and thus protect their owners from intoxication, as well as from miseries and the difficulties of life or provide salvation during shipwreck. However, as early as in the 16th century ship-shaped 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. It might be considered as a kind of response to the great geographical discoveries and navigation development.

    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.

    A table decoration and at the same time a vessel in the shape of two-masted ship with fluttering flags, one of which is fixed on the stern, with four hoist square sails. A basket is on each pillar. Baskets (the so-called “top sail” or "crow's nest") for lookout sailors are fixed on each pillar. The ship hull is decorated with the chiseled images of sea Gods and nereids against see waves. The ship rigging, its numerous crew, passengers and soldiers on the deck, as well as cannons with barrels, visible through apertures on both sides, are reproduced in fine detail. A tower with the roof with four sloping surface, with flag, dominates in the center, with the figures sitting inside. The anchor, realized in the shape of spout, descends from the ship bow. The nave is mounted on four openwork wheels.