Nautilus - inv. 784

Amsterdam, 17th century

silver   shell   morther of pearl  
133 x 185 mm
1879 bequest Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli
Inv. 784

Art Collector Room

The Nautilus is a rare species of marine creature which lives in the seas around Indonesia, the Philippines and New Guinea. These delicate shells, embellished with carvings, were hung up or used as cups supported by refined settings. For their exotic origin, together with their fragility and the delicacy of the decoration, they were highly prized by collectors. The Poldi Pezzoli Nautilus is carved with genre scenes based on engravings by Jacques Callot, set within volutes and sprays of vegetation, around which flutter insects taken from Flemish repertoires of images of that time. On the edge of the shell, in silver carved and pierced, are holes for hanging the shell and, between volutes and leaves, a two-headed eagle and a coat of arms. The work was produced by a workshop in Amsterdam in the mid-seventeenth century, probably for an important Hapsburg client.