Pair of earrings
National Museum of Damascus
Around hegira 5th–6th century / AD 11th–12th century
Length (at longest point) 3.5 cm, depth (at deepest point) 1.21 cm
The Fatimid period is distinguished by the development of precisely executed objects with high levels of decorative concentration. This is evident in wood, metal, and gold objects from the period.
This pair of earrings is made from a gold web that is hollow from the inside. Each individual earring is in the form of a bird carrying in its beak a small gold ball. The loop provided for hanging the earring from the ear of the wearer connects the head of the bird with the rear of its body, making the arch of the bird's back straddle the earlobe.
The earrings were made from gold wire carefully soldered together and accentuated with a few gold granules. The granule technique creates a light and hollow whole that is both aesthetically and practically pleasing. This technique was also used to create spherical or bi-conical beads that were then strung together into necklaces and other kinds of jewellery.
This small but meticulously executed pair of gold earrings is a prime example of dexterity in the technique of filigree. Birds were a favoured ornamental motif and the filigree technique maintained the lightness of the subject without compromising their opulence.
The production of this type of hollow, woven gold object was well known in the Fatimid period, specifically in the first half of the 5th / 11th century.
Purchased in 1940.
Although purchased in Raqqa, the method of production described above was associated with multiple sites in Egypt and Syria, such as Cairo and Aleppo. It is difficult to determine, therefore, a definitive provenance.
Ettinghausen, R., Grabar, O., and Jenkins-Madina, M., Islamic Art and Architecture 650–1250, New Haven, 2001, fig. 340.
Seipel, W., Schätze der Kalifen: Islamische Kunst zur Fatimidenzeit, Wien, 1998, pp.119–20; fig. 76.
Mona al-Moadin "Pair of earrings" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;sy;Mus01;17;en
Prepared by: Mona Al-Moadin
Translation by: Hilary Kalmbach (from the Arabic)
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: SY 23
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Fatimids | Royal Women: Granddaughters of Fatima al-Zahra′
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