Lobed Plaque, Silver; chased, with filigree and decorative wire, slightly domed turquoises, and wax turquoise replacement

Lobed Plaque

Object Name:
late 19th–early 20th century
Attributed to Khotan
Silver; chased, with filigree and decorative wire, slightly domed turquoises, and wax turquoise replacement
4 9/16 x 4 13/16 in. (11.6 x 12.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, 2005
Accession Number:
Not on view
The silver jeweled ornaments of the Turkoman tribes of Central Asia are characterized by their bold forms, striking profiles, and prominent semiprecious stones, most often carnelians or turquoise. By the nineteenth century, the once seminomadic Turkoman people had settled in various parts of Iran, Afghanistan, and Chinese and former Soviet Central Asia, but metalworkers' guilds continued to hold an honored position in each center. Turkoman silversmiths produced a variety of objects in a style and with motifs that reflected both Islamic and shamanist cultural influences: jewelry for women and children; ornaments and fittings for knives, helmets, and belts; and harnesses and other embellishments for horses and other animals.
This pendant of somewhat unusual form originally hung from a chain threaded through metal rings attached to the loops on the rectangular plate at the top. The combination of filigree and a thicker silver rim is often seen in Turkoman silver jewelry. The use of blue stones as protection from the "evil eye" has a long history in Islamic culture, particularly in the Persianate world.

By the end of the nineteenth century the Turkmen nomads living in northeastern Iran and what is now Uzbekistan had suffered fierce suppression at the hands of the Russians. The forcible settlement of the Turkmen people resulted in the loss of a traditional way of life that had given meaning to such manifestations of their material culture as carpets and jewelry. In order to survive they began to sell the heirloom jewelry that had been worn on special occasions, including weddings and other important rites of passage.

Although the design of this pectoral is abstract, the silver piece that forms the lower portion of it most likely represents stylized ram’s horns. Mountain goats are highly symbolic to the Turkmen and thus appropriate for use in jewelry that was intended to protect its wearer. The large imitation turquoise set in the center of a filigree ground and the four smaller turquoise stones above it were meant to ward off the evil eye. Turkmen jewelry makers also favored carnelians and often combined them with turquoise to decorate their silver pieces.

The two loops at the top of the pendant indicate that this piece would have been suspended either on a chain, to be worn alone on a woman’s chest, or at the bottom of a longer pectoral that could reach all the way to the wearer’s waist. While filigree is commonly found on Turkmen jewelry, its swirling forms lend a delicacy to the pectoral that contrasts with the striking, stylized horn element. Such filigree suggests a familiarity with nineteenth-century jewelry made in an urban environment. Of interest is the fact that the piece comes from Khotan, in Chinese-controlled Xinjiang—a place of origin that demonstrates the broad reach of the Turkmen, who could be found from the shores of the Caspian to the city of Khotan in the nineteenth century.

Although this striking piece is probably an element of a larger parure, it has a powerful presence and can stand on its own as an independent work of art. The piece is very sculptural and consists of a small rectangular plaque inlaid with a row of turquoises attached to a pendant of sweeping form. Pattern interest is created by the contrast of the bold polished form and the larger scale of the pendant with the delicate small-scale filigree workmanship of the center. The work is new to the literature and forms part of a group of chinoiserie-style works in the Wolf collection that share a similar treatment of chased floral and leaf designs (see catalogue no. 158 in this volume and no. 2012.206.9a, b).

This piece is clearly related to Tibetan prototypes (see photograph on p. 163 in this volume). The work also displays features of Central Asian workshop production. The combination of plain and patterned surfaces in this piece is related to the gold filigree jewelry of Bukhara, Khiva, and Khwarazm, although the latter generally favored delicate and sometimes overly busy forms and motifs.[43] The use of decorative silver wire for the setting of the stones, in addition to the plain collet, is also a Central Asian urban workshop technique. Additionally, triangular amulet containers with a comparable combination of silver filigree and polished silver inset with stones have been attributed to Khwarazm.[44] Until a definitive study based on a larger corpus appears, two possible scenarios remain: either the works in this group were produced for Khotan clientele, or a production of jewelry may be assigned to Khotan that was closely modeled on Central Asian traditions but reinterpreted into new designs and shapes.

Layla S. Diba in [Diba 2011]


43. Sychova, Natalya. Iuvelirnye ukrasheniia narodov Srednei AziiIz 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. 53, fig. 16; Steffan, Roland, and Hans- Jörg Schwabl. Silberglanz und Kleiderpracht der Seidenstrassen: Sammlung Kurt Gull. Exh. cat., Volkerkundemuseum, St. Gallen, Switzerland, 2004.

44. Kalter, Johannes, and Margareta Pavaloi, eds. Uzbekistan: Heirs to the Silk Road. New York, 1997, p. 301, fig. 602.
Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, Toronto, Canada (until 2005; gifted to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Turkmen Jewelry," October 9, 2012–February 24, 2013, no. 116.

Diba, Layla S. "Silver Ornaments from the Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf Collection." In Turkmen Jewelry. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 116, pp. 42, 163-164, ill. fig. 6 (color), pl. 116 (color).

Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 199, pp. 9, 284, ill. p. 284 (color).