The Schlüsselfeld Ship Model of 1503

By Maik-Jens Springmann, published November 2020

Abstract

The use of table decorations in the form of ship models, known as nefs, became a way of demonstrating prestige among the elite merchant class of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. One of the most impressive and important of these centrepieces is the so-called Schlüsselfeld model made in 1503 for Wilhelm Schlüsselfeld (1483–1549), head of a large trading family in Nürnberg and now in the collection of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nürnberg. This extraordinary engraved and partially gilt silver model is a complex historical source that tells us much about the socio-cultural context of the trading elite and their tools of business. This article investigates the model, along with archive and archaeological evidence, and concludes that, although not an accurate scale model, it provides a tangible and realistic picture of the art of shipbuilding and seafaring on the eve of the early modern period.

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Filed under: Baltic
Subjects include: Merchant Marines | Ship Models & Figureheads

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