Bracelets on display at the "SerpentiForm" exhibition
Rome - AFP
They were Indiana Jones's most feared nemeses and scared off would-be Medusa fanciers.
Throughout history, snakes have represented peril, betrayal and sex, and now they are taking centre stage in a new Italian exhibition.
Luxury jeweller Bulgari has teamed up with Rome's city hall for "SerpentiForm", which will run until April 10 in a Neoclassical palace which once housed the political headquarters of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
Serpent-inspired jewels are on show alongside sculptures, paintings and even film costumes -- like the creations worn by Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 film "Cleopatra", in homage to the Egyptian pharaoh who tradition has it committed suicide by persuading a venomous snake to bite her.
"This is the first exhibition in the world dedicated to the snake that brings together so many works of various media," Bulgari's CEO Jean-Christophe Babin said, adding that the brand had "always been inspired" by the scaly reptile.
While in some cultures snakes historically represented fertility -- shedding their skin in a symbol of rebirth -- they are more often than not depicted as untrustworthy.
The show hopes to capture the seductive talents of serpents like the one who persuaded Eve to eat forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, or Lord Voldemort's fork-tongued pet in "Harry Potter".
The exhibition is taking place at the Palazzo Braschi, a former papal palace located close to one of Rome's best-known squares, Piazza Navona.
Constructed at the end of the 18th Century, the palace was was sold to the new Italian state in 1871 and later used as Mussolini's headquarters. After World War II it temporarily became home to hundreds of refugees who reportedly damaged the building's frescoes by lighting fires to keep warm.