Atasoy and Raby titled their chapter on the 1520s "A Period of Experimentation" (Atasoy, Nurhan and Raby, Julian: Iznik, the Pottery of Ottoman Turkey, London, 1989, pp.101-104). The whole economic foundation of the potteries at Iznik were changing, as were the artistic tastes of the output. In this period the foundations were laid for the flowering of Iznik pottery 30-40 years later.
It is a period of a great variety of forms. As well as footed bowls, dishes and vases, candlesticks, cylindrical pots, even a vessel in the form of a fish and ewers of strange forms like the present example were made. A similar freedom similarly comes into the decoration. The rigid counterpoint of rumi and hatayi continues, but a number of other elements are also brought into the equation. Particularly in borders one finds a variety of elements which had not been there before. Elements of the tughrakes style appear, as do the first vessels which rely directly on Chinese porcelains for their inspiration. From this date too is the first vessel which includes animals in the design. As another side to this innovation, the colour turquoise is also introduced at around this time, in one moment freeing Iznik pottery from being a monochrome medium.
It is out of this period of great innovation that the present ewer comes. Within the complete body of Iznik there are only two other vessels of this form, both of which are in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Atasoy and Raby, op.cit., pls. 97 and 126). Even with such a rare form, the potters at this stage are not content just to produce the same form again. In contrast to the other two, the present example lacks the four peg feet found on the others and therefore stands with its base directly on the ground. With regard to the decoration the present ewer is very close indeed to the first of the two examples in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Both have as their main design element a large cloudband-motif reserved against a cobalt-blue ground, a motif that is introduced as an additional element into the basic earliest Iznik style at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Again, rather than just copying the same motif again, the painter of the present ewer has chosen a strongly different form of this motif from that of the Victoria and Albert Museum ewer. Typically for vessels of this period, the newly introduced turquoise is used sparingly; many examples can be found to demonstrate how much less stable this colour was in firing than the cobalt-blue.
Within this spirit of experimentation it is not surprising that the potters were also playing around with the composition of the glaze. A chemical analysis of the chemical components of this vessel indicates that the potters were using a unusual proportions of a few of the chemicals involved. While the general readings from Iznik pottery give a consistent picture (Henderson, Julian, in Atasoy and Raby, op.cit., p.69), there are a number of unusual proportions within that group of samples, indicating both a lack of consistency in general method and no hesitation on the part of the potters to try something a little differrent.
Unfortunately all three ewers have lost their mouths, spouts and handles. The base of the handle is visible on both of the Victoria and Albert Museum ewers, enabling one to guess the S-scroll form of most of the handle of the second one while the base of the first handle trails down the side of the body. There is not enough showing on the present ewer to predict the original form of the handle. Both the present ewer and the first of the Victoria and Albert examples appear to have had their silver mounts made by the same workshop; both are almost identical in form. This is most likely to have occurred in the late nineteenth century. The ewer in the museum was donated from the Salting Collection in 1910; it was presumably acquired by Salting some time before that. The other ewer of similar form had already entered the museum collection in 1897.