Long believed to be extinct due to fossil discoveries dating back to the Paleozoic, the Nautilus is a genus of cephalopod mollusc with a peculiar logarithmic spiral external shell and numerous internal chambers, considered an engineering miracle.
Nautilus shells, coming from trade with the East Indies, were well known and used in jewelery already in the 17th century. They were decorticated to highlight the mother-of-pearl layer and, worked or embellished in various ways, they often went to enrich cabinets of curiosities or were exhibited as luxurious furnishing elements. In the spectacular setting of the staircase of Palazzo Cavalli, two specimens are exhibited, part of the original Vallisnerian nucleus of the museum. One is mounted on a pedestal candelabra and wrought brass decorations. The other, unfortunately incomplete, is decorated with scenes from Ovid’s “The Metamorphoses”.