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 Museum Explorer

Tools and technology
in Europe

Nef

Height: 104 cm
Width: 78.5 cm
Depth: 20.3cm

 

M&ME 1866,10-30,1

Clockwork ship

From: Augsburg, South Germany
Date: around AD 1585

A nef is a medieval galleon, or large sailing ship. This amazing gold model of a nef is in fact a kind of clock. Sailors in the crows’ nests hit bells with hammers to chime out the hours. At the bottom of the main mast a dial shows the time.

The clock was designed to impress guests at banquets. It would trundle along the centre of the grand table and announce that it was time to dine. After chiming out the timed, music played on a small organ. Tiny men processed in front of the Holy Roman Emperor who sits on his throne under the mast. As a finale, three canons were fired with a wonder of noise and smoke.