Pre-Islamic forms can be seen in bracelets such as this one, indicating traditionalism in the production of jewelry. At the back of each of the four hemispheres around the clasp there is a flat disk of gold decorated by pouncing it over a coin; the four stones originally on the front are now missing. The twisted decoration probably derives from Greek bracelets; Byzantine jewelry often incorporated coins.
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Date:first half 11th century
Geography:Found Iran, Gurgan
Medium:Gold; filigree and granulation
Dimensions:H. of clasp: 2 1/2 in. (6.4 cm) Max. Diam: 4 1/8 in. (10.5 cm)
Credit Line:Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1957
The pivotal pieces for the study of early medieval jewelry in Greater Iran are this armlet and its mate in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (58.6). Each of the four hemispheres flanking the clasp bears at its base a flat disk of thin gold that was decorated by pouncing it over a coin bearing the name of the Abbasid caliph al-Qadir Billah ( 991–1031). The late George Miles believed the style of the coins used was that of those minted in the years 999–1000, 1007, and 1028, during the rule of Mahmud of Ghazni, and that they were probably struck in the mint of Nishapur. It is our opinion that the gold disks were most probably pounced over relatively new coins and therefore a dating to the first half of the eleventh century is secure, particularly since this is corroborated by other related pieces, including those with dodecahedral and icosahedral elements (see MMA nos.1979.96 and 1979.7.3a, b).
There are a large number of extant bracelets in both gold and silver that are analogous to this pair, although none is as fine or as elaborate. The main characteristics of this group are the four hemispheres flanking the clasp and the tapering of the shank toward the clasp—the former being plain or having a twisted effect; or, alternatively, a non tapered shank is subdivided into ball-shape sections (see MMA no. 1981.232.3)
Pre-Islamic jewelry forms can be seen in these bracelets, indicating continued conservatism and traditionalism in the art. Examples of coins and imitation coins on jewelry are quite numerous in the Byzantine period. The twisted effect of the shank must ultimately derive from Greek bracelets with similar shanks. Those with shanks subdivided into ball-shape sections must have had as their models Roman rings and bracelets.
[Jenkins and Keene 1983]
1. Segall, Berta. Museum Benaki, Katalog der Goldschmiede-Arbeiten. Athens, 1938, no. 225; L'lslam dans les collections nationales, exhibition catalogue. Grand Palais, Paris, 1977, no. 362; MMA nos. 1981.232.3 and 48.98.13.
2. Wealth of the Roman World: Gold and Silver A.D. 300–700, exhibition catalogue. The British Museum, nos. 171, 172; Hoffman, Herbert, and Davidson, Patricia. Greek Gold: Jewelry from the Age of Alexander. Boston, Brooklyn, and Richmond, 1965, no. 61b; "Melvin Gutman Collection of Ancient and Medieval Gold," exhibition catalogue. A!len Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 18, May 23, 1961, nos. 2, 3, 107.
Inscription: In Arabic on imitation coins: Justice! There is no god save Allah, and he has no associate. Al-Kadir billah. (H. McAllister, trans.)
[ E. Safani, New York, until 1957; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Gold," April 14–September 9, 1973, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Islamic Jewelry in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 22–August 14, 1983, no. 16.
New York. Forbes Galleries. "Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry: Exquisite Jeweled Objects from the Cradle of Civilization," September 22, 2008–December 31, 2008, p. 107.
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. 107.
Paris. Institut du Monde Arabe. "Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry: Exquisite Jeweled Objects from the Cradle of Civilization," April 19, 2010–July 25, 2010, p. 107.
"Gold." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 31, no. 2 (Winter 1972/1973). pp. 69–121.
Jenkins-Madina, Marilyn, and Manuel Keene. Islamic Jewelry in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1983. no. 16, p. 40, ill. (b/w).
Welch, Stuart Cary. The Islamic World. vol. 11. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. p. 39, ill. fig. 26 (color).
de Montebello, Philippe, and Kathleen Howard, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. 6th ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992. p. 315, ill. fig. 10 (color).
Ettinghausen, Richard, Oleg Grabar, and Marilyn Jenkins-Madina. Islamic Art and Architecture 650–1250. 2nd ed. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001. p. 171, ill. fig. 263 (color).
Price, Judith. "Exquisite Objects from the Cradle of Civilization." In Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry. Philadelphia; London, 2008. p. 107, ill. (color).
Baghdad : Eye's Delight. Milan, 2022. pp. 236–37, 293, ill.
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