Burghley Nef

Burghley Nef

The Burghley Nef is a silver-gilt salt cellar made in Paris in 1527-8. In medieval France the word Nef was applied to various types of boat-shaped vessel, including the most magnificent objects intended for the dining tables and buffets of the rich. Apart from having an obvious ornamental quality, their function was to hold personal pieces of cutlery or, as in this case, salt. A highly valued commodity at the time, salt was worthy of the most costly materials. This nautilus shell, mounted in silver, was a rare natural curiosity.

The Burghley Nef would have been placed in front of the most important person at table as a mark of their status. At the foot of the mast are the tiny figures of the lovers Tristan and Iseult playing chess who, according to the legend, mistakenly drank a love potion and suffered tragic consequences.


Jackson, Anna (ed.) V&A: A Hundred Highlights (V&A Publications, 2001)

External links

* [http://www.artfund.org/artwork/3484/the-burghley-nef Art Fund]

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