This splendid gold roundel exemplifies the refinement of Seljuq goldsmithing by virtue of its construction and combination of techniques. The filigree on the surface is laid on a ground of thin, gold strips arranged in concentric circles, a technique influenced by contemporaneous jewelry from Syria and the Fatimid dynasty in Egypt. The object resembles a sunburst, and its central element, now lost, might have been a gem or gold dome surrounded by six stars, symbolizing the planets. It could have been sewn onto a man’s headdress, as seen in images of Seljuq grandees.
This magnificent gold roundel exemplifies the sophistication of Seljuq gold-smithing by virtue of its construction and the combination of techniques applied to it. Because of its circular shape and the small holes perforating each of the leaf-shaped elements on its perimeter, it may have had a string, perhaps of pearls, around its periphery. This would preclude its use as a pendant, and suggests that it was attached to the wearer’s clothing or more likely his headdress, in which case each petal would have been sewn onto a support. While princely figures and those in their entourage in a range of media from stucco to ceramics wear headdresses with a petal shape extending upward above the crown of the head, in the most detailed depictions these petals contain a rosette or other ornament. That such rosettes were produced in simplified form across the Seljuq territories, perhaps as gold appliqués, is borne out by a stone jewelry mold acquired in Aleppo. Its incised rosettes consist of a central circle containing a round indentation surrounded by seven circles and nine petals.
Assuming the jewelry mold is Syrian, it provides yet another link between the gold jewelry of Fatimid Syria and that of Seljuq Iran. In both traditions filigree is laid on a backing of gold strips—thin and arranged in concentric circles on this roundel, thicker and of variable sizes and arrangement in the Fatimid examples. Given its imposing size, decorative elements, and glittering surface, this roundel may have represented the sun and planets. The central circle would originally have held a gem or possibly a larger gold domical element of the type found in the band between the stars and the outer petals. The stars around the now lost central ornament may represent the planets orbiting the sun. Such an object would have been a fitting decoration for the headdress of a privileged person, on whom it would have bestowed good fortune.
Sheila R. Canby in [Canby, Beyazit, and Rugiadi 2016]
1. Islamic Jewelry in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1983. Catalogue by Marilyn Jenkins and Manuel Keene. New York, 1983, p. 53.
2. See cats. 1a–j in this volume, in particular MMA 67.119.
3. Allan, J[ames] W. “Islamic Jewellery and Archaeology.” In Islamic Jewellery. Dealer cat., Spink and Son, London, April 15–May 9, 1986. London, 1986, pp. 4–16, p. 15, fig. 72.
4. See Islamic Jewelry in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1983. Catalogue by Marilyn Jenkins and Manuel Keene. New York, 1983, pp. 52–53, for a full explanation of the construction of the roundel.
Mrs. Christian R. Holmes, New York; Alice N. Heeramaneck, New York (until 1980; gifted to MMA)
Mexico City. Colegio de San Ildefonso. "Arte islamico del Museo Metropolitano de Arte de Nueva York," September 30, 1994–January 8, 1995, no. 102.
New York. Forbes Galleries. "Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry: Exquisite Jeweled Objects from the Cradle of Civilization," September 22, 2008–December 31, 2008, p. 108.
Chicago. Field Museum of Natural History. "Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry: Exquisite Jeweled Objects from the Cradle of Civilization," February 13, 2009–June 14, 2009, p. 108.
Paris. Institut du Monde Arabe. "Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry: Exquisite Jeweled Objects from the Cradle of Civilization," April 19, 2010–July 25, 2010, p. 108.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Court and Cosmos: The Great Age of the Seljuqs," April 25, 2016–July 24, 2016, no. 23.
Jenkins-Madina, Marilyn. Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 38 (1980–1981). pp. 17-18, ill. (color).
Jenkins-Madina, Marilyn, and Manuel Keene. Islamic Jewelry in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1983. no. 24, pp. 52-53, ill. (b/w; color).
Welch, Stuart Cary. The Islamic World. vol. 11. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. pp. 38-39, ill. fig. 25 (color).
Baer, Eva. "Jeweled Ceramics from Medieval Islam: A Note on the Ambiguity of Islamic Ornament." Muqarnas vol. 6 (1989). pp. 83-97, ill. fig. 18.
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Daniel S. Walker, Arturo Ponce Guadián, Sussan Babaie, Stefano Carboni, Aimee Froom, Marie Lukens Swietochowski, Tomoko Masuya, Annie Christine Daskalakis-Matthews, Abdallah Kahil, and Rochelle Kessler. "Colegio de San Ildefonso, Septiembre de 1994-Enero de 1995." In Arte Islámico del Museo Metropolitano de Arte de Nueva York. Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1994. no. 102, pp. 248-249, ill. p. 249 (b/w).
Price, Judith. "Exquisite Objects from the Cradle of Civilization." In Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry. Philadelphia; London, 2008. p. 108, ill. (color).
Canby, Sheila R., Deniz Beyazit, and Martina Rugiadi. "The Great Age of the Seljuqs." In Court and Cosmos. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016. no. 23, p. 94, ill. (color).