This paper newly outlines an art history of late medieval ship models and their contexts of use. Focusing on the mid-thirteenth through early sixteenth centuries in Europe, an age of rapid maritime expansion, it investigates the design and role of miniature vessels at the intersection between devotional practices, courtly culture, modes of patronage, and technological change. It explores three categories of ship models in particular: ex-voto ships that were presented to a specific shrine after a miraculous rescue at sea or naval victory; nefs, which served as princely table decorations and containers of commodities such as salt and spices; and nefs that, subsequent to their use as banqueting props, were repurposed as devotional vessels that either contained relics or possibly functioned as ex-votos.
Achim Timmermann is Professor of the History of Art and Professor of Architecture at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. A specialist in the art and architecture of the late Middle Ages, he is author of Real Presence: Sacrament Houses and the Body of Christ, c. 1270-1600 (2009) and Memory and Redemption: Public Monuments and the Making of Late Medieval Landscape (2017), as well as over fifty journal articles.
Book your place here.