Nefs d’Or, Nefs d’Argent Between Space and Power
The so-called nefs were an important ‘presence’ in the European courts starting from the Late Middle Ages. They were precious miniature ships, shown during banquets held in the halls of the nobility. In addition to delighting the sight of diners thanks to their ornamental richness, they were used as containers of spices, drinks, or luxury silverware. The preciousness of the vessel and of its content were just some of the elements that determined the function of ostentation of power through the nefs. Taking into consideration sources and examples ranging from the fourteenth century to the early sixteenth century, the purpose of this contribution is to investigate both the spatial relationships in the practices of use of the object and those intrinsic to the object itself. The main trajectories of analysis refer to three spatial relationships: that of container and content, that of long-distance travel embedded in the object, and the geography of power in noble banqueting rituals. These spatial relationships reflect power relationships that will be investigated on a case-by-case basis in the course of our study.