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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Two-Finger Ring

Object Name:
late 19th–20th century
Attributed to Central Asia or Afghanistan
Silver with decorative wire, silver shot, table-cut carnelian, and turquoise beads
H. 4 in. (10.2 cm) W. 3 in. (7.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, 2012
Accession Number:
Not on view
Four Rings: MMA 2012.206.13a–d, MMA 2014.714.6, MMA 2013.968.11, and MMA 2014.714.9

These four rings are characterized by massive scale, domed shapes, and architectural references. They also feature a similar use of applied decoration and small multicolored stones in conjunction with carnelians, a tradition associated with both Afghan and Tajik workmanship. Nos. 2012.206.13a–d and 2013.968.11 bear an applied motif of silver shot evoking granulation, a common feature of Kazakh production (see also no. 2012.206.11). The eclectic nature of the technique and the unusual shapes make it difficult to identify the rings’ geographical origin.

Perhaps the most spectacular of these rings, no. 2012.206.13a–d is composed of four circular, interlocking, and graduated compartments surmounted by a carnelian. The shape has been compared to that of the Indian stupa,[15] an observation that may help to identify its origin. When viewed from the side, the decoration of sixty small turquoise beads, which must have been extremely labor intensive to produce, evokes a series of arches. The shank of the ring is fitted with three holes or hollow cylinders, seemingly to house pins, a feature that indicates there were other components to the piece and raises doubts about its function.

No. 2014.714.6 is rounded on the sides and flattened at the top, which is set with a carnelian engraved in naskhi script that reads “The lowly
Muhammad Ali.” The sides bear a most unusual design of thirteen kneeling male figures wearing pointed caps and set within niches. The
figures are ambiguous. On the one hand, they evoke similarly proportioned and attired figures from Buddhist sculptures excavated in Afghanistan, thus suggesting an Afghan origin, perhaps a Kabul or Herat workshop.[16] On the other hand, remarkably similar profiles and pointed caps appear in photographs of dervishes from Samarra and Khiva taken in the late nineteenth century.[17] Differentiating between mere resemblance and a documentable source is extremely difficult in this case, and we must leave final conclusions until further evidence emerges.

Nos. 2013.968.11 and 2014.714.9 are conical in form, which again evokes architectural shapes such as the eleventh- to thirteenth-century tomb towers with pointed domes of Afghanistan and eastern Iran. The overall conception of the rings corresponds to rings assigned to northern Afghanistan or southern Uzbekistan for Tajik patronage,[18] although they have been assigned to Daghestan by the trade.[19] This attribution should not be entirely discounted, since it is possible that craftsmen from that region may have worked in Central Asia and brought their design traditions with them.

Layla S. Diba in [Diba 2011]


15. Marilyn Wolf, conversation with the author, January 2008.

16. Akademiia Nauk SSR. Russkaia Turkestanskaia Ekspeditsiia 1909–1910 goda. Saint Petersburg, 1914, p. 69; Grünwedel, Albert. Buddhist Art in India. Translated by Agnes C. Gibson, revised and enlarged by James Burgess. New Delhi, 1972, figs. 90, 117, and 356.

17. Balsiger, Roger N., and Ernst J. Kläy. Bei Schah, Emir und Khan: Henri Moser Charlottenfels (1844–1923). Schaffhausen, Switzerland, 1992, p. 117.

18. Kalter, Johannes, and Margareta Pavaloi, eds. Uzbekistan: Heirs to the Silk Road. New York, 1997, p. 302, fig. 606.

19. Marilyn Wolf, conversation with the author, January 2008.
Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, Toronto, Canada (by 2006–12; gifted to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Turkmen Jewelry," October 9, 2012–February 24, 2013, no. 165.

Diba, Layla S. "Silver Ornaments from the Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf Collection." In Turkmen Jewelry. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 165, pp. 204-205, ill. p. 204 (color).

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