Triangular Amulet Holder, Silver; fire-gilded, with stamped beading, silver shot, decorative wire, gilt and silver applied decoration, loop-in-loop chains, cone-shaped pendants, slightly domed and cabochon carnelians, and turquoise beads

Triangular Amulet Holder

Object Name:
Amulet holder
late 19th–early 20th century
Attributed to present-day Uzbekistan, Karakalpak
Silver; fire-gilded, with stamped beading, silver shot, decorative wire, gilt and silver applied decoration, loop-in-loop chains, cone-shaped pendants, slightly domed and cabochon carnelians, and turquoise beads
9 1/2 x 10 1/2 in. (24.1 x 26.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, 2008
Accession Number:
Not on view
This amulet, in the shape of a triangle, or tumar, was worn on the chest and presents an interesting variation of the standard tumar design. Instead of a mountain motif, a pair of horns crowns the piece. A cylindrical tube, or bozbend, embellished with cabochon-cut carnelians and turquoise beads features prominently in the center. It would have held a Muslim prayer scroll, thus enhancing the talismanic powers of the entire piece. The solidness of the upper part is balanced by the dangling elements extending below it, which produced a soft, pleasant sound.
Five Triangular Amulet Holders (MMA 2010.501.5, MMA 2006.544.9, MMA 2008.579.12, MMA 2016.714.10, and 2013.968.3)

Nothing could provide a greater contrast with the Yomut tumar no. 2015.648.8 than no. 2010.501.5. This tumar has a stark, severe treatment, with geometric forms such as triangles, squares, and pentagons predominating. The shining silver surface is left completely unadorned except for the carnelians, creating an aesthetic effect that is particularly appealing to modern sensibilities.

A Kazakh interpretation of this form (no. 2006.544.9) and a Central Asian workshop tumar (no. 2008.579.12) exhibit more typically lavish ornamentation, color, and small-scale patterning. The former presents a remarkable conception of massed forms and volumes in an imposing sculptural design, while the latter features elaborate color effects with red and turquoise stones, appliqués, silver shot imitating granulation, and decorative silver wire: almost a compendium of the decorative and technical repertoire available at the time. The pointed, pagodalike-winged forms of the triangular element and lower band and the conical bells add a feeling of chinoiserie to the work. Similar forms are seen in tiaras assigned to Khivan and Bukharan workshops of the period and to a lesser extent to the Karakalpak

The last two works in this group are less elaborate but equally appealing versions of the tumar. No. 2016.714.10 is exceptionally bold in conception, with only three extended oval crenellations, each set with a single oval carnelian, as the focal point of the piece. The darkish brown hue of the carnelians is exquisitely balanced by the intense blue of the small turquoises, while shining silver embossed roundels contrast with the matte ground of the cylinder and the rough surface of the twisted silver wire bands dividing the cylinder. The effect is deceptively simple but powerful. Cylinder no. 2013.968.3 is left unadorned except for narrow silver decorative wire bands and hanging triangular pendants on chains. The opaque cobalt blue stones used to ward off the evil eye appear even more striking in this simple piece denuded of most ornamentation, reminding us of the original all-important protective function of the amulet.

Layla S. Diba in [Diba 2011]


61. Sychova, Natalya. Iuvelirnye ukrasheniia narodov Srednei Azii i Kazakhstana, XIX–XX vekov: Iz sobraniia Gosudarstvennogo Muzeia Iskusstva Narodov Vostoka / Traditional Jewellery from Soviet Central Asia and Kazakhstan from the Collection of the Museum of Oriental Art. Moscow, 1984, p. 31, fig. 3; and Komleva, Galina. Jewellery: Museum of Ethnography of the Peoples of the USSR. Translated by Sergei Volynets. Leningrad, 1988, p. 131 respectively.
Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, Toronto, Canada (until 2008; gifted to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Turkmen Jewelry," October 9, 2012–February 24, 2013, no. 133.

Diba, Layla S. "Silver Ornaments from the Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf Collection." In Turkmen Jewelry. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 133, pp. 176-177, ill. p. 177 (color).

Ekhtiar, Maryam, and Claire Moore, ed. "A Resource for Educators." In Art of the Islamic World. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. pp. 200-210, ill. pl. 40 (color).