Silver; chased, with filigree and decorative wire, slightly domed turquoises, and wax turquoise replacement
4 9/16 x 4 13/16 in. (11.6 x 12.2 cm)
Gift of Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, 2005
Not on view
The silver jeweled ornaments of the Turkoman tribes of Central Asia are characterized by their bold forms, striking profiles, and prominent semiprecious stones, most often carnelians or turquoise. By the nineteenth century, the once seminomadic Turkoman people had settled in various parts of Iran, Afghanistan, and Chinese and former Soviet Central Asia, but metalworkers' guilds continued to hold an honored position in each center. Turkoman silversmiths produced a variety of objects in a style and with motifs that reflected both Islamic and shamanist cultural influences: jewelry for women and children; ornaments and fittings for knives, helmets, and belts; and harnesses and other embellishments for horses and other animals. This pendant of somewhat unusual form originally hung from a chain threaded through metal rings attached to the loops on the rectangular plate at the top. The combination of filigree and a thicker silver rim is often seen in Turkoman silver jewelry. The use of blue stones as protection from the "evil eye" has a long history in Islamic culture, particularly in the Persianate world.
By the end of the nineteenth century the Turkmen nomads living in northeastern Iran and what is now Uzbekistan had suffered fierce suppression at the hands of the Russians. The forcible settlement of the Turkmen people resulted in the loss of a traditional way of life that had given meaning to such manifestations of their material culture as carpets and jewelry. In order to survive they began to sell the heirloom jewelry that had been worn on special occasions, including weddings and other important rites of passage.
Although the design of this pectoral is abstract, the silver piece that forms the lower portion of it most likely represents stylized ram’s horns. Mountain goats are highly symbolic to the Turkmen and thus appropriate for use in jewelry that was intended to protect its wearer. The large imitation turquoise set in the center of a filigree ground and the four smaller turquoise stones above it were meant to ward off the evil eye. Turkmen jewelry makers also favored carnelians and often combined them with turquoise to decorate their silver pieces.
The two loops at the top of the pendant indicate that this piece would have been suspended either on a chain, to be worn alone on a woman’s chest, or at the bottom of a longer pectoral that could reach all the way to the wearer’s waist. While filigree is commonly found on Turkmen jewelry, its swirling forms lend a delicacy to the pectoral that contrasts with the striking, stylized horn element. Such filigree suggests a familiarity with nineteenth-century jewelry made in an urban environment. Of interest is the fact that the piece comes from Khotan, in Chinese-controlled Xinjiang—a place of origin that demonstrates the broad reach of the Turkmen, who could be found from the shores of the Caspian to the city of Khotan in the nineteenth century.
Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, Toronto, Canada (until 2005; gifted to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Turkmen Jewelry," October 9, 2012–February 24, 2013, no. 116.
Diba, Layla S. "Silver Ornaments from the Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf Collection." In Turkmen Jewelry. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 116, pp. 42, 163-164, ill. fig. 6 (color), pl. 116 (color).
Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 199, pp. 9, 284, ill. p. 284 (color).