The present ewer, decorated with moulded design of lively dancers linking arms, is one of a group known to have been produced in moulded fritware covered with a cobalt and turquoise glaze. Whether the motif represents a particular dance or whether it is an expression of joie de vivre or life at court is unclear, but different explanations have been put forward for its possible significance. Ettinghausen and Bausani propose that it is a representation of the dastaband, the 'dance of the Magi', the fire-worshippers of the Zoroastrian religion (Richard Ettinghausen, 'The dance with zoomorphic masks and other forms of entertainment seen in Islamic art, Arabic and Islamic Studies in Honour of Hamilton A.R.Gibb, Leiden, 1965, pp.211-24 and A. Bausani, 'Religion under the Mongols', The Cambridge History of Iran, V, Cambridge, 1968, p.548). It has also been suggested that the form of the dance, with the holding of hands and the position of the legs, finds parallels in an ancient Turkic tradition which appear to survive from the pre-Islamic period until the 15th century (Ernst J. Grube, Cobalt and Lustre. The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, London, 1994, pp. 159-60, no. 151).
Ettinghausen remarks that portrayal of similar scenes on luxury goods, including silver-inlaid bronzes, lustre and polychrome painted pottery indicates their decided appeal to the wealthy and even the palace (Ettinghausen, op. cit., p. 224).
Turquoise glazed ewers with the same design are in the David Collection and the Ashmolean Museum (Kjeld von Folsach (ed.), Sultan, Shah and Great Mughal. The history and culture of the Islamic World, Copenhagen, 1996, p. 253, no. 231 and Géza Fehérvàri, Islamic Pottery. A Comprehensive study based on the Barlow Collection, London, 1973, p.76, pl. E, no. 64). Another, from the collection of Raymond Ades is published in Mehdi Bahrami, Gurgan Faiences, Cairo, 1949, pl. VII). Two, one turquoise glazed, the other cobalt glazed are in the Khalili Collection (Ernst J. Grube, op. cit., pp. 159-60 and p. 170 , nos. 151 and 160). A cobalt glazed jar, formerly in the Parish-Watson Collection, recently sold at Sotheby's, 14 April 2010, lot 142. Another, similar to the Sotheby's example, is in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
The present is a particularly elegant example. The moulding is finer than most - it is also particularly inventive. The spout has been moulded with the figure of a crouching lion, a feature which none of those listed above share.