Monday, October 14, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Gilbert Nef, 1610

Silver Gilt
Germany, 1610
This and all related images:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Decorated vessels like this one, in the form of a ship, are historically known as “nefs,” (meaning “ship”) and date back to medieval France. 
 These strange objects served both decorative and functional purposes.  The one that we see here was most likely meant for display, the spout protruding from the bow suggesting, however, that it could have been used as a ewer.

Very often, these vessels were outfitted with little surprises inside.  Here, the upper section of this nef which is modeled in the form of a two-masted ship, lifts off the hull to reveal a lizard in the bowl.  Yay!  Always a treat!

The nef is adorned with cold-enameled figures and a cannon on deck with other figures climbing the rigging and mainmast. The oval base is chased with gadroons and naturalistic foliage with three applied figures of lizards.
  The stem is modeled as a tree trunk with an engraved foliage calyx at the top while the repoussé hull of the ship is chased with cartouches of sea monsters and scrolls and fruit on a matted ground.

An applied mask adorns the bow and the mizzenmast has two furled sails, the mainsail is engraved with a later coat of arms, and a flag is flying from the top of the mainmast.

This piece, from the Gilbert Collection, was made around 1610 in Regensburg, Germany, of raised, cast, chased silver and gilded silver (silver-gilt) with cold-enamel.


Anonymous said...

Is that Gollum squatting on the cabin roof??

Joseph Crisalli said...

No, it pre-dates Gollum. It's Barbara Walters.