Nef (metalwork)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

A nef is an extravagant table ornament and container of precious metals used in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, made in the shape of a ship - nef was an alternative term in French for a carrack. If not just used for decoration, it could hold salt or spices, the latter being very expensive in the Middle Ages, or cutlery, or even napkins. The large nef in the well-known calendar miniature for January from the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry is being used to hold, and perhaps wash, gilt dishes from the table service.

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