Massive pottery well-heads are a feature of Islamic Spain, not produced anywhere else in the Islamic world. Of either cylindrical or polygonal, normally octagonal, form, a number survive showing a progression throughout the Islamic period. While the earliest examples were relatively simple, by the end of the Islamic period they were carved in high relief with inscriptions and interlaced vegetal motifs (Caviró, Balbina Martínez: Cerámica Hispanomusulmana, Madrid, 1991, pl.351, p.310).
The present example, relatively simple in concept, has features which relate to pottery of the late caliphal period. The simplicity of form and the darkening of the moulded band below the upper rim are very close to a similar vessel dateable to the 10th or 11th century (Caviró, op.cit.: pl.23, p.44; Les Andalousies, de Damas à Cordoue, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 2000, no.135, pp.135-5). The decoration on that piece is freer and less well controlled than seen here. The inscription, al-mulk, "is the most common epigraphic expression found on ceramics of this period" (Bordoy, Guillermo Roselló, "The Ceramics of al-Andalus", in Dodds, Jerrilynn D. (ed.): Al-Andalus, New York, 1992, p.98). The band below the inscription briefly contains a plaited design before changing to a meandering vine. Both these designs are also amongst the most common border designs of the period (Gómez-Moreno, Manuel: El Arte Arabe Epsañol hasta los Almohades, Arte Mozárabe, Madrid, 1951, pls.377-381). One feature distinguishes the present piece from almost all other published examples. While the green glaze is the most common form of decoration, it is almost invariably outlined in black, in contrast to here where it is freely delineated on its own.