The pictorial motifs on the ewer refer to the prince and his household. In a series of medallions around the neck and shoulders of the vessel the ruler is shown seated on horseback or on the lion throne. The beaker he holds before him suggests the pleasures of wine, which – like music, hunting and the killing of lions – serves to emphasize his royal dignity. The blessings in the accompanying inscriptions unfortunately only evoke an anonymous 'possessor'. That he belonged to the upper echelon of society is indicated by the representations of the planets, symbols of rulership, which appear on the lower half of the ewer: the ruler governs in accord with the heavenly bodies. Large medallions enclose personifications of Jupiter, Venus and Mercury; the last of these is represented as a scholar, with scroll and writing-desk (in the centre of the picture), flanked by the sun and moon. The figure holding a crescent moon is repeated several times. This may refer to Mosul, the merchant city on the Upper Tigris, whose princes used this motif on their coinage. Certainly the signature of the artist, whose name is Ali ibn Abdallah al-Alawi al-Mawsili refers to that city (ai-Mawsil being Mosul. One of those masters who helped win for the inlaid work of Mosul its unequalled reputation, he left his name not only on the ewer but also on the basin that goes with it. In the thirteenth century this kind of work – in which both silver foil and gold wire are inlaid into base metal – replaced the traditional silver in the manufacture of luxury goods. The new process allowed for brilliant colour effects and for the clear rendering of figurative scenes. With such luxury items the princes sought to emphasize their status. Ewer and basin would be brought to the princely table for hands to be washed before and after each meal, and the hands would then be dried with silk towels.