Pair of earrings
Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum
Hegira 5th century / AD 11th century
Gold, granulated filigree.
Height 3.3 cm, width 3.5 cm; weight of a single earring approx. 18 g
The two earrings are crescent-shaped. They are double-sided and open at the top. The earrings’ two sides differ from one another. One side consists of a crescent-shaped area in which two spiralling tendrils mirror each other symmetrically. The area is bordered by a row of gold pearls. The other side consists of a small semi-circular area encompassing symmetrical tendrils, framed by a wide border that is made up of six half-spheres, their surface completely granulated. The presence of eyelets demonstrates that at one time each side of both earrings were hung with strings of pearls. The pearls no longer exist.
Because of what the literature terms their ‘box construction’, the earrings are typical examples of Fatimid art of the AH 5th / AD 11th century. They probably come from a big city environment like Cairo. Similar earrings have been found in excavation sites in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. Coins found alongside provide a date for the objects. Many of the excavated items of jewellery had been used as currency for trading, valued purely for their worth in gold; probably rather less consideration was given to the lavish craftsmanship with which they were made and which was evidence of the high level of art practised by jewellers during the Fatimid period.
This pair of gold earrings, which once had additional pearls, is typical of Fatimid art. In the shape of a crescent, the two sides have different designs. One side has a symmetrical plant pattern, while the other is adorned by a row of six half-pearls. Jewellery was widely traded in the Islamic world.
A sister pair of earrings formed in the same shape was found in Fustat (Old Cairo) indicating that these earrings have come from Fatimid Egypt.
Bought from a dealer in Aleppo, 1913.
The discovery in Fustat (Old Cairo) of a sister pair made in the same shape, as well as the markings, which betray certain origins, point to an Egyptian provenance for this pair of earrings.
Gladiss, A. v., Schmuck im Museum für Islamische Kunst. Berlin, 1998, no. 23, 94, ill. 73.
Keene, M. and Jenkins, M. (eds.), Islamic Jewelry in the Metropolitan Museum of Art,New York, 1982, no. 51a, p.85.
Museum für Islamische Kunst Berlin, Catalogue, Berlin, 1973, no. 217.
Seipel, W., Schätze der Kalifen: Islamische Kunst der Fatimidenzeit, Mailand, 1998, pp.119–29.
Annette Hagedorn "Pair of earrings" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;de;Mus01;43;en
Prepared by: Annette Hagedorn
Translation by: Maria Vlotides, Brigitte Finkbeiner
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: GE 54