Two Bridal Headdress Ornaments (2010.501.3 and 2013.968.9)
These two bridal headdress ornaments, with curved front elements and straight-sided flaps, are variants of the group of high curved rectangular crowns known as egme, a term that, according to Johannes Kalter, means “curved bent.” The silver chains hanging on the forehead gracefully frame the wearer’s face and veil her features. Tall crowns like these are among the most impressive and sumptuous elements of the bridal accoutrement. In both nos. 2010.501.3 and 2013.968.9, the openwork design must have made them lighter to wear than a stiff crown without openwork. In the earliest recorded examples, such as the crown described in the late eighteenth-century account of Samuel Gottlieb Gmelin, small silver headbands and rows of coins were layered one above the other and sewn onto a tall fabric headdress. According to the literature, heavier crowns became fashionable among the Turkmen late in the nineteenth century, perhaps paralleling the taste for Russian-style marriage crowns in urban centers, and then fell into disuse by the mid-twentieth century.
Both examples feature graceful openwork designs of tripartite elements derived from floral shapes. Close examination strongly suggests that these shapes are tulips, which are rarely noted in the relevant literature; the tulip is generally related to Ottoman design traditions, but it can also be found in Central Asian textiles made in nineteenth-century urban workshops.
Layla S. Diba in [Diba 2011]
10. Kalter, Johannes. “The Tribal Jewelry of Turkestan.” In Hasson, Rachel. Later Islamic Jewellery. Exh. cat., L. A. Mayer Institute of Islamic Art. Jerusalem, 1987, p. 127.
11. Gmelin, Samuel Gottlieb. Travels through Northern Persia 1770–1774. Translated and annotated by Willem Floor. Washington, D.C., 2007. Originally published as Reise durch Russland zur Untersuchung der drey Natur-Reiche, 4 vols., Saint Petersburg, 1774–84, p. 282.
12. 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. 176; Kalter, Johannes. The Arts and Crafts of Turkestan. New York, 1983, p. 217.
13. Kalter 1983 (note 12), p. 157, reaches the same conclusion regarding the three-leaved shapes, although he has reservations about interpreting these forms in Ghaznavid reliefs as a tulip.