Exhibitions/ Art Object


late 19th–early 20th century
Attributed to Central Asia or Iran
Silver; fire-gilded and chased, with openwork, decorative wire, and table-cut carnelians; contemporary red cotton lining
5 1/4 x 7 1/8 in. (13.3 x 18.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, 2009
Accession Number:
Not on view
The style of this crown, destined for a woman’s head, is consistent with that of Teke jewelry with its simple, bold patterns created by the contrast of the fire-gilded silver base, the large oval carnelians, triangular and v-shaped silver details reserved on a gold ground and openwork S-shapes and other motifs on a red cotton ground. Turkmen craftsmen used silver sheet derived from melted-down coins which they hammered and soldered together in boxlike constructions. The gilded appearance was achieved by mixing gold filings with mercury to form a paste that was then brushed onto a prepared silver surface. This was then heated to remove the mercury, leaving gold to be burnished.
This crown exhibits a remarkably effective use of oversize carnelians, a flat surface treatment, and a gold and silver palette, elements of Teke workmanship that appear in many other examples. As in MMA 2016.714.5, the large flat stones are skillfully arranged in a balanced symmetrical design, which here articulates the form of the high arched crown. There is a pleasing interplay between the stability of this pattern and the movement and vitality of the background forms. The flatness of the design is enhanced by the red felt backing and the dark red opaque tone of the stones. The design of triangles, lozenges, and S-shapes, however, is considerably more abstract than the floral and vegetal designs typically found in such Teke pieces as MMA 2016.714.5. Another distinctive feature of this work is that the design is reserved in silver against a gold ground.

A comparison of the two works reveals that the seemingly abstract geometric forms in this crown are markedly similar to the more realistically rendered interstitial areas of the openwork design at the base of MMA 2016.714.5, demonstrating the inventiveness of the Turkmen silversmith. This tendency toward stylization and abstraction is frequently seen in Islamic art, where positive and negative carry the same visual weight and foreground and background are equivalent. Another feature that Turkmen Teke design shares with Islamic design is its adaptability: the same design works equally well with the flat circular pillbox cap and the high arched crown shape.

But this style is also related to the cut-out and appliquéd felt work of ancient Turkish tradition, which was still current among the Turkmen and Kirghiz tribes in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.[9] This piece therefore illustrates the dual nature of Turkmen decorative design, drawing as it does from both Islamic and Turkish traditions.

Layla S. Diba in [Diba 2011]


9. Trilling, James. The Language of Ornament. London, 2001, p. 118; Dupaigne, Bernard. “Le grand art décoratif des Turkmènes.” Objets et mondes 18, nos. 1–2 (Spring–Summer 1978), pp. 7–8; Thompson, Jon. Timbuktu to Tibet: Exotic Rugs and Textiles from New York Collectors. Exh. cat., Hajji Baba Club. New York, 2008, pp. 105–17.
Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, Toronto, Canada (by 2006–9; 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. 5, pp. 52-53, ill. p. 53 (color).

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