Headdress Ornament in the Shape of Double Bird, Silver; fire-gilded, with chip-carved decoration, cabochon carnelians, turquoise-beaded balls, and links

Headdress Ornament in the Shape of Double Bird

Object Name:
Headdress ornament
late 19th–early 20th century
Attributed to Central Asia or Iran
Silver; fire-gilded, with chip-carved decoration, cabochon carnelians, turquoise-beaded balls, and links
5 3/8 x 4 9/16 in. (13.7 x 11.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, 2005
Accession Number:
Not on view
In this rare example of a headdress ornament with pin, two addorsed crested bird shapes spring from a central shaft, which is surmounted by a turquoise-encrusted ball and ram’shead finial. The birds hold similar balls in their beaks.

Stylized birds appear often in Turkmen ornaments and decorative arts as secondary motifs. They also belong to the Islamic decorative tradition, where images of addorsed or confronted birds—sometimes holding bunches of grapes or leaves in their beaks—are a favored motif, particularly in the early Islamic period.[22] The workmanship seen in the turquoises and the hatching pattern suggest that this is a product of a Central Asian urban workshop made to order for a Turkmen patron, since the rams’ heads are distinctly Turkmen forms .
The function of this work is unclear. The basic form of an ornament on a pin corresponds to descriptions of both hairpins and turban pins and may have been worn by either men or women. During the Seljuq period in Iran (eleventh to thirteenth century) gold hair pins with bird’s-head finials were worn by women, yet the surviving examples are both smaller and lighter than this piece. Hair pins and lightweight headdress ornaments continued to be depicted in Persian painting in the following centuries, and twentieth-century headdress ornaments worn by Mongol women also present parallels with this work.[23] A turban pin assigned to a nineteenth-century Bukhara workshop has been called a jiqqa and its function described as a headdress ornament for a bridegroom.[24] Similarities with Turkmen sanjalik headdress ornaments argue for the identification of this work as headdress.

Layla S. Diba in [Diba 2011]


22. Rudolph, Hermann. Der Turkmenenschmuck: Sammlung Kurt Gull. Exh. cat., Museum Rietberg Zürich; Museum für Völkerkunde, Berlin. Stuttgart, 1984, p. 200, fig. D186; Ettinghausen, Richard, and Oleg Grabar. The Art and Architecture of Islam: 650–1250. New York, 1987, p. 106, figs. 85 and 86, and p. 111, fig. 88.

23. Brosh, Na’ama. Takhshitim me-‘olam ha Isla’m / Islamic Jewelry. Exh. cat., Israel Museum. Jerusalem, 1987, p. 32, fig. 26, for Seljuk hairpins; Boyer, Martha H. Mongol Jewelry; Jewelry Collected by the First and Second Danish Central Asian Expeditions. Rev. ed. London, 1995, pp. 62–63, figs. 32–34, and p. 51, fig. 20, for Mongol head ornaments.

24. A paisley-shaped turban ornament of Mughal origin. See Komleva, Galina. Jewellery: Museum of Ethnography of the Peoples of the USSR. Translated by Sergei Volynets. Leningrad, 1988, p. 114, for an example.
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. 19.

Diba, Layla S. "Silver Ornaments from the Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf Collection." In Turkmen Jewelry. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 19, pp. 40, 64-65, ill. fig. 2, p. 64 (color).