This most unusual ceramic sculpture is conceived with a monumentality that belies its size. In concept it relates to a small but distinct group of animal sculptures, most of which are decorated in lustre rather than the turquoise and cobalt that is found here. A large figure of a bull in the Seattle Museum has a vase on its back (Oliver Watson, Persian Lustre Ware, London, 1985, pl.98, p.119). A camel in the Khalili Collection similarly supports a vase on its back (Ernst J. Grube, Cobalt and Lustre, the Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, London, 1994, no.267, pp.236-7). Closely related to these three is a camel with a tall howdah-like contruction on its back that was published by Pope (Arthur Upham Pope, A Survey of Persian Art, Oxford, 1938, pl.647A). Another camel, not quite so close, is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Ernst J. Grube, "Islamic Sculpture", Oriental Art, new series, Vol XII no.3, Autumn 1966, pl.20, p.172). Each of these five items has been designed to cope with the structural problem of having a large item on the back which is supported on a narrow neck or spurs. The Khalili camel does this in the most basic way, using clearly visible struts to support the vase. The other four all use human figures as the struts, the present example being the most inventive in having the human figures linking arms.
Despite these similarities there are many differences between this and the others. Apart from the decoration, our sphynx has a stiffer monumentality in appearance. The legs are not only considerably longer, but they are also much thicker. The use of cobalt to highlight details of design on a turquoise ground is also not typical of Kashan pottery. And while the only other standing sculptural sphynx is that from Raqqa in the David Collection, the two are certainly not part of the same production (Kjeld von Folsach, Islamic Art, the David Collection, Copenhagen, 1990, no.129, p.104 among many other publications). There is a monochrome cobalt-blue glazed camel in the Islamic Museum, Cairo, which has some closer similarities with our sphynx, notably the vertical bands of roundels running along the neck of each (Grube, "Islamic Sculpture" op.cit., pl.21, p.172). It is probable that both these come from the same centre of manufacture.