Antique German Silver Neff Sailing Ship


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Object Description

This superb sterling silver galleon ship, known as a Nef, is intricately modelled with 2 tall masts having multi section sails and long boom, manned crows nests, flags and rigging. Each mast has a man climbing up a tall ladder. On the upper deck the helmsman is steering the ship while the other sailors carry out their duties. In the centre there is a broad staircase which connects the two decks. Around the edge there is a decorative pierced gallery and below this, the port holes with their cannons ready for battle.

The top section of the Neff can be removed from the hull. The hull of the ship is realistically engraved with timber effect planks and graining; the interior is gilded, the rudder is in the form of a dolphin, the anchor is attached by a chain. The ship has 10 cannons and stands on four decorative wheels.

Excellent large size and weight. Weight 3350 grams, 107 troy ounces. Height 67 cms. Spread 62 cms. The nef has multiple silver stamps including London import marks, on the bottom edge of the top section and the body of the hull, for 1913. Importer Berthold Muller.

Biography – Berthold Mueller was an import firm, who distributed a lot of Neresheimer silver. The firm changed its name in 1915 to Berthold Muller and was listed as wholesale silversmiths and jewellers, antique reproduction in silver, ivories, miniatures, enamels, and so forth. B. Neresheimer & Sohne, Hanau, Germany offered a wide range of highly decorative objects like nefs, tankards, coconut and nautilus cups, and other sumptuous sideboard pieces. Hanau silver was largely imported in UK between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.

Object History

Formerly the property of Geoffrey Annesley Harmsworth, 3rd Baronet, born 1904, died 1980. Educated at Harrow School, he became a war correspondent during World War 2 and later squadron leader in the RAF. Lived in London at 8 Stretton Street, became a director of the Daily Mail, Chairman of Harmsworth Press and Field Magazine.

Object Literature

A neff (originally spelt nef) is an ornamental model ship made specially for the dinner table. They are usually quite elaborate with masts, sails, rigging and various figures on board. Early examples (13th-16th century) were drinking cups or receptacles for dining implements. Nefs originated from the continent and were used in France, Germany, Spain and Italy but most nefs found today were made in Germany at the end of the 19th century.

Traditionally the dining table nef was made in two sections and the top half was removable so that the hollow hull could be used to contain the spoon, knife, napkin, spices of the host. When the use of great dining halls waned, the hull was fashioned to hold wine, sweetmeats or a variety of special condiments.

Object Condition

The ship is in very good condition with no damage. The interior gilding is bright. There are English silver import marks stamped on the on the bottom edge of the top section and the body of the hull. There are German silver marks on the sales and some of the other smaller pieces.

Object Details

Dealer Opening Times

By appointment only.

Dealer Contact

+44 (0)207 288 1939
+44 (0)7904 297419

Dealer Location

Vault 31-32
The London Silver Vaults
53-64 Chancery Lane
London WC2A 1QS

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