Nef, noun


In metalwork, nef is an extravagant table-ornament in the shape of a ship. The example pictured here is one of the fine silver objects that will make their way to the block at John Moran Auctioneers’ Decorative Art Auction slated for Tuesday, February 21st, online and at the firm’s gallery in Monrovia, California. It’s a gilt and enameled sterling silver man-o-war rendered in exquisite detail. Unmarked except for the silver standard (but likely from then-Austro-Hungaria), the nef carries a pre-sale estimate of $8,000-$12,000. It will surpass that if good looks count for anything.

Other noteworthy silver pieces in the sale will include an Art Nouveau Russian silver inkstand decorated throughout with cattails and scrolling rocaille, consigned from a private Scottsdale, Arizona collection (est. $3,000-$5,000); and a handsome mid-20th century Portuguese .833 silver lidded tureen from an important Santa Paula, California collection, featuring all-over gadrooning and surmounted by an artichoke-form finial (est. $800-$1,200). Back to nef: it can also mean a large sailing ship used in the Middle Ages, and it’s also the French word for “nave” of a church.