Object StatementNef (ship-shaped table centrepiece), copper / silver / gilt / enamels / blister pearls, Karl Bender, Vienna, Austria, c 1874-1892
Physical DescriptionNef (table centrepiece) in the form of a copper sailing ship (galleon) part-gilt and painted in enamels with various scenes from classical mythology and incorporating small silver figures. The boat-shaped sweetmeats container has detachable cover in the form of a square-rigged, three-masted deck with high poop deck and sailors. It is supported by an enamelled cast-silver figure of two-tailed Nereid (mermaid), her body set with blister pearls, kneeling on top of a spreading ovoid foot. The foot extends into a low, octofoil base painted with enamels and gilt, and decorated with eight cast-silver winged hippocampi (seahorses). A cast-silver and enamelled winged mermaid torso extending into an acanthus-shaped shell in place of her fish tail, is attached to one end of the container (forepeak) to form figurehead of the ship.
Various mythological scenes decorate both the exterior and interior of the container, all sails and the foot. These include the elaborate scene on the foremast sail 'The marriage of Neptune and Amphitrite', who ride in a cockle-shell chariot drawn by hippocampi over the waves of the sea amid a retinue of Tritons, Nereids and Amoretti. The five scenes on the deck are painted in square reserves set against embossed scrolling bands of gilt background. The five oval scenes on the foot are reserved against enamelled ground with grotesque ornament. A similar grotesque frieze with mermen and Tritons blowing conch-shell trumpets, decorates the container's interior along the rim and above the large central scene 'Neptune rescuing Amymone from the satyr'. The three mast pennants and the openwork gallery around the deck, all silver figures and the openwork side frieze of the octofoil base are champlevé enamelled in red, blue, green, yellow, black and white. The interior of the hollow foot is painted with a continuous landscape with gothic and classical ruins which also feature on the backs of the smaller sails.
Marks Stamped in various places:
'A' in square (Austrian control mark)
maker's mark:'KB' in rectangle