This exceptional, fine and impressive antique French silver nef* has been realistically modelled in the form of a ship.
The surface of the vessel is ornamented with impressive chased decoration paralleling the ship's form and depicting fish and birds amongst a reeded bank.
The surface of the deck is ornamented with impressive chased decoration replicating the details of the wood texture.
The anterior surface of the ship features details replicating a suspended anchor and bowsprit, all conjoined to the ship amongst rope twist designs.
The mast is further embellished with circular crow's nests, accented with basket weave decoration and a cast figure climbing the ladder in addition to peering out the nest.
The deck of the ship is accented with further cast silver figures, bearing operational and combat stances.
The central portion of the deck forms a cover, which allows access to hull and storage compartment.
This silver nef ship is supported by an impressive cast pedestal incorporating an antique dolphin decorated knop, to a circular domed foot.
The foot is further encircled with a band of chased decorated organic designs.
The hallmarks struck to this exceptional antique silver nef include:
Importer's mark: JS (John George Smith)
Import mark: London, England
Import date mark: e (1900)
Silver quality/purity mark: Lion passant (.925/sterling standard)
Additional mark: F (foreign manufacture mark), French hallmarks
Such examples with a multitude of finely embellished characters on the deck and within the lookout are rare to the market.
NOTES: * A nef is a dining table ornament typically used within western Europe, modelled in the form of a ship; the word nef derives from the French word used in the late 17th century for an ocean sailing ship. Ancient examples were used for drinking vessels and evolved to hold dining implements in the hollow hull - including cutlery, napkins and spices; upon grander events the hull could be utilised to hold wine and special condiments. If applied to the design, the functional wheels of the nef allow the piece to be passed around the table, enabling guests to be severed in a more elaborate manner. Through time the functional nef lost favour, becoming a more substantial and imposing centrepiece than a part of the dining experience.
Read a brief history of antique silver centrepiece at AC Silver.