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 on the hull, deck, sails and practically on all flags; mark of Neresheimer Ludwig & Co, import English (London) mark of the 1920th, Berthold Muller The Nerescheimer Co. agent in London)


    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.

    Table decoration in the shape of a three-masted ship with a keel, with wind-blown flags, 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 the chiseled images of sea Gods and nereids in cartouches. The vessel rigging, its numerous crew and cannons, with the barrels visible through the apertures on the ship sides, are rendered in exquisite detail.

    The bow of the ship with bowsprit mast on it, with the hoist square sail and flag, with the descending anchor, has a dolphin head shaped spout. The nave ship is mounted on four open –work wheels, each decorated with dolphin-shaped inlay.