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Exhibitions/ Art Object

Amulet Holder

Object Name:
Amulet holder
late 19th–early 20th century
Attributed to Central Asia or Iran
Silver and brass alloy; fire-gilded, with ram's-head terminals, loop-in-loop chains, bells, decorative wire, gilt-applied decoration, table-cut carnelians, and applique discs on leather
Leather strap: 17 13/16 x 1 13/16 in. (45.2 x 4.7 cm) Qur'an Case: 7 x 7 13/16 in. (17.8 x 19.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, 2005
Accession Number:
Not on view
This Qur'an holder is a doga-kumus, a small box that hangs from a chain or a leather strap that was hung over the shoulder or around the neck. This type of silver jewelry was used to keep Muslim prayers, talismans, keys, or coins, and was typically worn by older women. According to an eighteenth-century legend, these hanging Qur'an holders symbolize Islamic power over evil spirits. The front of the box is decorated with gilded and embossed silver disks in half-moon and triangle shapes, set with carnelians. Silver wire and horn motifs decorate the border of the plates and twelve spherical pendants hang from six double-link chains.
Three Yomut Amulet Holders (MMA 2008.579.10, MMA 2014.714.15 and MMA 2005.443.8)

The works in this group all perform the function of housing amulets or prayer scrolls, which were inserted in the detachable triangular tops with which these boxes or flat panels are generally outfitted. The first two works, exemplifying the type of small box attached by chains to the neck known as kümush-doga,[62] are of Yomut manufacture.

The versatility of the Turkmen decorative repertoire is illustrated by the way motifs are adapted to adorn square and rectangular surfaces.
The design of no. 2008.579.10 consists of rectangular panels with a vertically oriented decoration of geometric appliqués surmounted by a single large ram’s-head ornament. No. 2005.443.8 has a much more complex and multilayered decoration, which is organized into four square panels anchored by a large carnelian at the center and four smaller carnelians in the surrounding panels. The decoration of appliqués in each panel is perfectly symmetrical and in diagonal format. The decoration can also be read as emanating from the center or as a sunburst/medallion design. The complexity of the design is enhanced by the use of numerous terminals (twelve small rams’ heads and a single large ram’s head); chains with bells; and leather straps with rectangular silver and gilt embossed plaques.

Another approach to decorating square surfaces is illustrated by a sparkling, bejeweled pendant (no. 2014.714.15). Here, the careful symmetry and almost classical elegance of no. 2005.443.8 give way to a looser and more playful decorative style. The charm of this ornament is enhanced by the contrast between the small colorful glass stones and the large polished hanging spherical bells.

Layla S. Diba in [Diba 2011]


62. Rudolph, Hermann. Der Turkmenenschmuck: Sammlung Kurt Gull. Exh. cat., Museum Rietberg Zürich; Museum für Völkerkunde, Berlin. Stuttgart, 1984, p. 190.
Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, Toronto, Canada (until 2005; 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. 138, pp. 41, 180-181, ill. fig. 5 (color), p. 181 (color).

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