Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Armband, One of a Pair

Object Name:
20th century
Attributed to Central Asia or Northern Afghanistan
Silver; with decorative wire whorl decoration, silver shot, table-cut turquoises, and turquoise and coral beads
6 5/8 in. (16.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, 2009
Accession Number:
Not on view
Four Pairs of Armbands (MMA 2016.714.16, MMA 2007.497.4a, b, MMA 2009.530.8a, b, and MMA 2015.648.13a, b)

Triangles and lozenge shapes and glass inlays in typical Kazakh style are skillfully deployed in two pairs of armbands of medium width (nos. 2016.714.16 and 2007.497.4a, b) to embellish a single band of decoration. In a third set of armbands, no. 2009.530.8a, b, a central oval stone, in this case a turquoise, is surrounded by smaller motifs such as filler-type lozenge-shaped arrangements of silver shot that resemble granulation, combined here with very distinctive whorl shapes. Although the origin of this type of ornament is not certain (see also cordiform
pendant no. 2006.544.2), it presents similarities with jewelry made for the Pashtun tribe in Afghanistan.

An unusual set of bird-shaped armbands new to the literature (no. 2015.648.13a, b) exhibits the same fierce and dazzling style seen in a Kazakh-style cordiform pendant in the collection (no. 2009.530.1), very different from the more common Kazakh style of nos. 2016.714.16 and 2007.497.4a, b. These remarkable armbands feature a wavy outline and surface embellishment consisting of myriad small turquoises with floral roundels and slightly rounded carnelians in various shapes on a black ground. Bird forms are evoked here by the shapes of addorsed birds’ heads with beaks above and below the center of the cuff, which is inset with a large carnelian. This truly dazzling design is an innovative concept that reinterprets and reinvents familiar ornamental themes.

The design is quite eclectic, drawing from a variety of traditions. Familiar Kazakh elements such as the triangular and lozenge-shaped motifs in silver shot are used as fillers for the main design, while the wavy outline and combination of carnelian and pavé decoration of small turquoises is typical of pieces made in Bukhara workshops. Although bird forms are ubiquitous in Turkmen and Central Asian jewelry, they are rarely treated with such boldness and imagination. The cuffs are also distinguished by their thick boxlike construction, filled with an unidentified material to retain their shape.

Layla S. Diba in [Diba 2011]
Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, Toronto, Canada (by 2006–9; 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. 155, pp. 196-197, ill. p. 197 (color).

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