Pectoral Ornament, Silver; fire-gilded, with stamping, decorative wire, openwork, wire chains with embossed pendants, and table-cut carnelians

Pectoral Ornament

Object Name:
late 19th–early 20th century
Attributed to Central Asia or Iran
Silver; fire-gilded, with stamping, decorative wire, openwork, wire chains with embossed pendants, and table-cut carnelians
8 1/2 x 9 3/4 in. (21.6 x 24.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, 2008
Accession Number:
Not on view
The hexagonal shape, or gönzuk, represents the mountain motif; the table-cut carnelians protect the wearer from illness, and the openwork decoration of double-leaf designs is a motif symbolizing the growth and endurance of human existence. The hexagon, rhombus, and triangle are the most common shapes used in pectoral jewelry; they were believed to ward off evil in addition to fulfilling the practical purpose of fastening clothing.
Three Double Lozenge/Hexagonal Plaques: MMA 2017.693.3, MMA 2011.584.8, and MMA 2008.579.6.

Surviving pectorals in the double lozenge/hexagonal format are mainly of Teke manufacture. These three pectorals exemplify different design approaches within the basic format of two lozenges alternating with two triangular plaques. The interstitial space in both works is filled by openwork designs. However, the similarities end there.

No. 2017.693.3 exhibits a rich and complex articulation of split-leaf and palmette arabesques in the triangular plaques, repeated in mirror-image in the lozenges. The interstitial openwork design of tulips or three-leaved palmettes is airy and graceful, successfully rendered at the sides (but less so at the midsection). Carnelians are skillfully set into the middle of the interstitial tulips/palmettes and the center of the plaques. The pendants consist of flat, gilded leaf shapes, connected by delicate graduated silver wire chains to bells alternating with molded leaf shapes. This is a masterpiece of the genre, producing an effect that is both charming and elegant.

Nos. 2011.584.8 and 2008.579.6 present stylized variations on the form of no. 2017.693.3 and are probably from the same workshop: the arabesque designs of both the plaques and interstitial spaces are more abstract and the chains and pendants less varied.

This group also illustrates how a basic repertoire of motifs was altered and adapted to the jewelry’s different geometric shapes. The lozenge form that is used in pairs in these ornaments to produce a large hexagon is also used singly in pectorals and clasps (see for example nos. 2007.497.10 and 2016.714.11, .12).

Layla S. Diba in [Diba 2011]
Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, Toronto, Canada (by 2007–8; 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. 76, pp. 122-123, ill. p. 123 (color).