The story depicted is the founding of Thebes by Cadmus, who had been advised by an oracle to follow a cow to the site of the new city. His companions were killed by a dragon (or giant snake) when they fetched water from a nearby spring for a libation, and after a battle Cadmus killed the dragon. Minerva instructed him to sow the dragon's teeth and warriors sprang up from the ground where they were sown. The warriors fought each other until only five were left and with Cadmus they founded the city of Thebes.
The present lot is extremely close to the coppa in the Mazza Collection in the musei Civici, Pesaro, painted with the Calydonian boar hunt which is attributed to Pesaro.
1. See Giovanni Conti, L'Arte della Maiolica in Italia, 1980, no. 275 (where he dates it to 1541), and also Maioliche del Museo Civico di Pesaro, Catalogo, Bologna, 1979, no. 28 (where a precise date is not mentioned).
2. Possibly derived from the woodcuts in the 1497 publication of Ovid's Metamorphoses. The second figure from the left could be derived from Perseus in the woodcut illustration on p. 78, and the figure with the raised shield could have been based on figures found on p. 209 and p. 266.