This beautiful earring and its mate (1981.5.17) were fabricated with emeralds, rubies, pearls and gold. The backside is ornamented with blue, green and red-orange enamel, in scrolling floral motifs. These jewels were most likely made in Fes, or Meknes. In this technique, craftsmen engraved a decorative pattern into the metal, before applying a paste of colored glass in the recesses, which was then melted through heating. Inlaid enamel decorative techniques were both popular in Nasrid Spain (1232–1492), and were likely brought to Morocco by Muslim craftsmen who emigrated from Al-Andalus before or during the 15th century Reconquista.
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Title:Earring, One of a Pair
Geography:Attributed to Morocco
Medium:Gold, emerald, ruby, champlevé enamel, and pearl
Dimensions:H: 3 1/8 in. (8 cm) W: 1 in. (2.5 cm)
Credit Line:Gift of Marguerite McBey, 1981
Pair of Gold Earrings
Although of relatively recent vintage, this pair of earrings has several features that are reminiscent of Roman and even earlier types. The hoop ear wire, with the stone set at the front and the hinge connecting it to the stone-set box element, is perhaps the most telling of these features, since the wrapped-wire method of suspending pearls and stones was in almost universal practice since ancient times (for a pair of late Hellenistic earrings see Greifenhagen, 1974, pp. 44, 45).
The method by which the second and third levels (those with the small rubies and the large central emerald) are attached is a natural outgrowth of the fact that the box elements are hollow and filled—most likely with resin or lac: they are held in place by a rivet that pierces the center from the emerald-set element to the back.
The function—if any—of the two extra rivets or posts that run transversely through the ear wire of the earring at the left is not known. Perhaps they are replacements for attachments to other elements, such as headgear.
The settings, in which the gold is cut away and pushed up over the edge of the stones, are not unrelated to those on jewelry from Iran, India, and Europe during this period. The emeralds (particularly those on the earring at the left) are of good quality and probably reflect their relative availability after the influx into the East of material from Colombia following the Spanish Conquest.
Historical antecedents and contemporary parallels to the enameling on this earring type seem to elude us. That it is champ I eve relates it in the broadest sense to most Mughal and later Indian enameling: there appears, however, to be little close similarity between them. Nor can we relate the technique to fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Nasrid Spanish work or to the little that remains of earlier North African work.
[Jenkins and Keene 1983]
1. See also Mançais and Poinssot, L. Objets kairouanais IXe au XIIe siecle. Tunis, 1952, vol. 11, fasc. 2, pp. 475–93; Golvin, Lucien. Recherches archéologiques a Ia Qual'a des Banu Hammad. Paris, 1965, figs. 105–7, pls. CII, CIII; Guide to the Museum of Sa[If, in Arabic. Algiers [?], 1969, figs. on pp. 25, 27; L'lslam dans les collections nationales, exhibition catalogue. Grand Palais, Paris, 1977, nos. 370, 371, 513.
Marguerite McBey, Tangier, Morocco (until 1981; gifted to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Islamic Jewelry in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 22–August 14, 1983, no. 75.
Jenkins-Madina, Marilyn, and Manuel Keene. Islamic Jewelry in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1983. no. 75, p. 134, ill. (color).
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