Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Lozenge-Shaped Pectoral Ornament

Object Name:
late 19th–early 20th century
Attributed to Central Asia
Silver; fire-gilded, with decorative wire, stamped beading, wire chains, bells, and table-cut carnelian
13 x 8 1/8 in. (33 x 20.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, 2007
Accession Number:
Not on view
Cross-Shaped Plaques and Clasps: MMA 2014.714.13 and MMA 2007.497.10.

The cross-shaped design was particularly favored by the Teke, and most of the surviving single clasps are assigned to this tribe. Examples in the Wolf collection illustrate the characteristics of this type: the cross is made up of strips of silver decorative wire, punctuated with five carnelians, and the ground is decorated with arabesque designs. As a group they add considerably to our knowledge of the design repertoire within this category. Many of the variations displayed here are previously unrecorded, although they all correspond to the general characteristics of the type.[35]

No. 2007.497.10, for instance, does not follow the typical Teke style, since it features an undecorated ground, silver whorl and silver wire decoration instead of arabesque patterning, and a single stone at the center. Catalogue no. 97 in this volume (Promised Gift of Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf) exhibits a chevron-patterned border—also found in nos. 2011.584.5 (cordiform pendant) and 2012.206.12a, b (triangular amulet holders), and fig. 11b, nos. 7 and 8, page 19 in this volume—which may represent a particular Teke subtype or workshop. The use of the chevron motif, commonly found in late nineteenth-century Central Asian urban silver and metalwork production, may indicate that the pieces were produced in these workshops or by Teke silversmiths working near urban centers such as Merv.[36]

Even within this simple format, Turkmen silversmiths demonstrated remarkable inventiveness and produced an infinite variety of form and pattern. The basic lozenge-shaped unit, for instance, is extended at the bottom either with a plaque of openwork in the familiar tulip or three-leaved-palmette decoration, or with narrow silver strips studded with table-cut or cabochon-cut carnelians. In many examples, the lozenge is further extended vertically by a row of multiple chains with pendants, as many as thirty-seven in the case of the imposing clasp no. 2007.497.10.

Each work in this selection exhibits a different organization of the silver wire chains and their pendants: the chains vary according to width, length, number, and even spacing. The variations of motifs and forms found in the embossed pendants—bells, leaf and fruit shapes, forms suggesting larvae or beetles, fish forms and even faces—impart great charm to Turkmen jewelry.[37] No. 96 in this catalogue (Promised Gift of Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf) exhibits a spherical bell at the center, along with a single pointed-leaf pendant and fish-form pendants with eyes and rounded heads. Johannes Kalter has observed that these pendants, as well as the way the edges of the jewelry are fashioned, may indicate specific workshops or tribal affiliations, particularly in the case of Teke pieces. This intriguing suggestion could provide the answer to some of the more vexing questions of attribution in Turkmen jewelry, but it has yet to be systematically investigated by researchers.[38]

Layla S. Diba in [Diba 2011]


35. See Rudolph, Hermann. Der Turkmenenschmuck: Sammlung Kurt Gull. Exh. cat., Museum Rietberg Zürich; Museum für Völkerkunde, Berlin. Stuttgart, 1984, pp. 156–59; and Schletzer, Dieter, and Reinhold Schletzer. Old Silver Jewellery of the Turkoman: An Essay on Symbols in the Culture of Inner Asian Nomads. Translated by Paul Knight. Berlin, 1983, pp. 118–29.

36. Silver and metalwork of this period have been studied primarily from an ethnographic viewpoint. It is to be hoped that Islamic art historians expand their definition of the field in the future to include this material. See Kalter, Johannes, and Margareta Pavaloi, eds. Uzbekistan: Heirs to the Silk Road. New York, 1997; and Westphal-Hellbusch, Sigrid, and Ilse Bruns. Metallgefässe aus Buchara. Veröffentlichungen des Museums für Völkerkunde, vol. 29. Berlin, 1974.

37. Kalter, Johannes. The Arts and Crafts of Turkestan. New York, 1983, p. 109; Schletzer, Dieter, and Reinhold Schletzer. Old Silver Jewellery of the Turkoman: An Essay on Symbols in the Culture of Inner Asian Nomads. Translated by Paul Knight. Berlin, 1983, p. 59.

38. Kalter 1983 (note 37), p. 107.
Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, Toronto, Canada (until 2007; 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. 100, pp. 146, 148, ill. p. 148 (color).

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