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Ringling Museum Exhibits Elaborate Jewelry of the Turkomen Tribes
Teke Tribe, first half of 20th century. Amulet Breastplate (Tumar) Silver, gold, carnelian. Wilberding Collection of Turkomen Tribal Jewelry, SN11187.4
SARASOTA, FL.- Exquisite silver and gilt jewelry from the Turkomen tribes of Iran, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan are presented in the exhibition Splendid Treasures of the Turkomen Tribes of Central Asia at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art’s Ulla R. and Arthur F. Searing Wing April 24,1010 – Jan. 30, 2011. The exhibit of more than 40 objects hand crafted by the semi-nomadic Turkomen people features headdress ornaments, bracelets, and clothing clasps with carnelian and lavish decorative elements of silver and gold.

The collection includes jewelry created largely in the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, and worn by women from head to arm. Decorated with gilding, chains and semi-precious stones, each piece is imbued with symmetrical yet organic designs drawn from the tribes’ mythological interpretations of the natural world.

“We are delighted to showcase this exceptional collection of Turkomen treasures,” said Interim Director, T. Marshall Rousseau.“Each piece is stunning in its complexity and represents the talent and craftsmanship of the fascinating people who wore them.”

Now part of the Ringling’s developing Asian art holdings, the collection was recently donated by Stephen Van C. Wilberding, former senior advisor to the Saudi Arabia Monetary Agency. The exhibition highlights the customs and beliefs of the Turkomen tribes’ distinctive lifestyle.

“The most interesting cultures are those that are difficult to fully understand,” said Mr. Wilberding. “This is what first attracted me to the Turkomen tribes. Their mixture of different historical influences, which are particular to Central Asia, are unique.”

The bold and intricate jewelry represents the Turkomen tribes’ form of transportable wealth worn for special festivities or daily adornment. Often large in size, these elaborate pieces were sewn onto clothing or attached to the hair. Unique tall headdresses were decorated with elaborate jewelry, often with bells and pendants hanging down from the temples. Some ornaments were purported to have special properties to keep the wearer safe. Tribe continuity was always precarious, so great importance was attached to weddings, birthdays and the survival of children. Young women of marriageable age wore special jewelry, which was replaced by more elaborate forms for the wedding ceremony, when a woman’s jewelry was enhanced by the dowry given by the groom and his family. Married women wore their extensive collections of jewelry until the birth of their first son, layering multiple pieces from the head to hands. Changes in hairstyles, too, reflected the change in social position, so Turkomen women adorned themselves with special hair ornaments to indicate their marital status.

The exhibition is organized and curated by Dr. Chang Qing, Curator of Asian Art with Dr. Benita Stambler, Coordinator of Asian Art at the Ringling Museum.

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art | Stephen Van C. Wilberding | T. Marshall Rousseau | "Splendid Treasures of the Turkomen Tribes of Central Asia" |

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