Pectoral Disc Ornament, One of a Pair, Silver; fire-gilded with stamped bead and twisted wired decoration, engraving/punching and openwork decoration and table cut carnelian

Pectoral Disc Ornament, One of a Pair

Object Name:
late 19th–early 20th century
Attributed to Central Asia or Iran
Silver; fire-gilded with stamped bead and twisted wired decoration, engraving/punching and openwork decoration and table cut carnelian
Max. D. 1/2 in. (1.3 cm)
Max. Diam. 4 1/8 in. (10.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, 2012
Accession Number:
Not on view
Teke Pectoral Disc Ornaments (MMA 2006.544.12, MMA 2017.693.12, MMA 2012.206.6a, b, MMA 2011.584.12, and MMA 2015.648.3)

These pectoral disc ornaments may be assigned to Teke manufacture based on style and technique. The flat disc (no. 2006.544.12) and circular amulet cases (nos.2017.693.12, 2012.206.6a, b, 2011.584.12, and 2015.648.3) all feature variations on the arabesque as the main design element and are executed in openwork. As in most Teke works, they exhibit a rich variety of arabesque styles, ranging from the delicate two-layer version ultimately derived from Timurid designs (no. 2006.544.12) to stylized and undulating variants with an Art Nouveau feeling (2017.693.12). The graphic quality shared by all Turkmen ornaments is especially evident in these pieces. These openwork discs were either attached to clothing with chains or were sewn on. Backings of green or red felt enhanced the contrast between the arabesque design and the ground.

Ambiguity is an essential characteristic of Islamic ornament. Equal importance was given to positive and negative space, a quality that is particularly evident in Turkmen amulet cases. Pattern-ground ambiguity was also a feature of Central Asian felts, particularly Kirghiz and Kazakh, which are characterized by the same skillful balance of light and dark found in these works. According to James Trilling, Kazakh and Kirghiz artisans created sophisticated and skilled designs that “change shape almost endlessly according to the form and color which one sees first,”[20] an apt description of the patterns on these roundels. Johannes Kalter has also noted aesthetic similarities between felts and nineteenth-century Central Asian urban jewelry.[21] This provides further evidence that Turkmen jewelry was not created in isolation, but arose from a shared Islamic and Turkic artistic tradition.

Like the Yomut works, the Teke pectoral ornaments nos. 2012.206.6a, b and 2011.584.12 are decorated with central rosettes, but instead of appliqués the rosettes are surrounded with S-shaped elements derived from the negative spaces of arabesque designs or with tulip-shaped or palmette forms. These two works were probably produced in the same workshop, since they bear the same stylized four-lobed floral motif on the back, likely a workshop emblem. No. 2015.648.3 exhibits an arabesque whorl decoration, which is abstract though still derived from the vegetal arabesque.

Layla S. Diba in [Diba 2011]


20. Trilling, James. The Language of Ornament. London, 2001, p. 118.

21. Kalter, Johannes, and Margareta Pavaloi, eds. Uzbekistan: Heirs to the Silk Road. New York, 1997, p. 289.
Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, Toronto, Canada (by 2006–12; gifted to MMA)
Diba, Layla S. "Silver Ornaments from the Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf Collection." In Turkmen Jewelry. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 86, pp. 132-134, ill. p. 134 (color).