When The Martinware Pottery company was founded in 1873, the pieces were adored by London's "Chattering Classes." The anthropomorphic creations were modelled in a satirical "Punch-like" manner on politicians and economical figures, commissioned by aristocratic figures such as Lord Faringdon and Sir William Drake.

A large Martin Brothers spoon warmer, sculpted as a fish, dorsal fin as the handle and tail fin coming up underneath to the mouth. Signed R.W Martin & Bros, London & Southall. Dated 1887. Small area of professional restoration to the left front fin and to firing crack in mouth. Height 22cm, width 25cm.Sold for: £26 000 A large Martin Brothers spoon warmer, sculpted as a fish, dorsal fin as the handle and tail fin coming up underneath to the mouth. Signed R.W Martin & Bros, London & Southall. Dated 1887. Small area of professional restoration to the left front fin and to firing crack in mouth. Height 22cm, width 25cm.
Sold for: £26 000
Kingham & Orme

In the 1870's, Robert Wallace Martin, the man behind the animals, was an apprentice working on the Charles Barry redesign of the Palaces of Westminster. Wallace quickly became known for his grotesque-style models. He went on to be a student  at the Royal Academy where he later exhibited his work. His achievements also included being commissioned for the Portrait medallion of Queen Victoria to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee which was intended for the entrance to the V&A Museum but was never used.

In the 1890s when demand for the works of the Martin Brothers was at its height, special works were kept out of the public's gaze from within their retail premises in Holborn and saved for the more a higher class of clientele.

A Martin Brothers sculpture of grotesque bird, modelled with an open beak. Signed R.W. Martin and Bros London & Southall, on the base and removable head. Dated 12.1887. Height 22cm. (not including plinth)Estimate: £12 000 - £15 000 A Martin Brothers sculpture of grotesque bird, modelled with an open beak. Signed R.W. Martin and Bros London & Southall, on the base and removable head. Dated 12.1887. Height 22cm. (not including plinth)
Estimate: £12 000 - £15 000
Kingham & Orme

The creatures were fashioned in a variety of forms of stoneware such as vases, jars, water jugs, bowls, and small sculptures, and decorated with salt glaze. Robert Wallace's reinterpretation of mythical creatures: goblin faces, dragons, toads, fish, hedgehogs, salamanders, gargoyles, and of course, birds are instantly recognisable.

Perhaps the appeal of these strange birds lay in the Victorian's curiosity with the macabre, or maybe it was influence of the new theories of Darwinism.

An early Martin Brothers sculpture of a judge bird, wearing a judge's wig which runs from the head to body. Lozenge mark to the body and signed R.W Martin London and Southall. Dated on the head and inside the body 1882. Possibly the earliest recorded judge bird. Good condition with no restoration. Height 29cm (without wooden base)Sold for: £46 000 An early Martin Brothers sculpture of a judge bird, wearing a judge's wig which runs from the head to body. Lozenge mark to the body and signed R.W Martin London and Southall. Dated on the head and inside the body 1882. Possibly the earliest recorded judge bird. Good condition with no restoration. Height 29cm (without wooden base)
Sold for: £46 000
Kingham & Orme

In recent years the market for the Martin Brothers' Birds has increased. In the 1970's, Richard Dennis' selling exhibitions of a superb collection of the Brothers work helped to reignite interest. Dennis revived the aesthetic and commercial interest in the factory and following this came several other important international exhibitions. During this time, the appeal of the Birds moved beyond the domestic market and a large percentage of the Birds sold in overseas collections.  In the last 15 years, the Birds have been known to sell for six figures, tripling in price.

A Martin Brothers sculpture of a grotesque spoon warmer. Signed R. W. Martin Bros London & Southall, circa 1880. Height 13cm.Estimate: £30 000 - £35 000 A Martin Brothers sculpture of a grotesque spoon warmer. Signed R. W. Martin Bros London & Southall, circa 1880. Height 13cm.
Estimate: £30 000 - £35 000
Kingham & Orme

Today, the rise in the interest in the Arts and Crafts movement, is partly fuelled by wealthy American collectors buying online.

This is a significant trend for British Ceramics as historically they have been undervalued against other objects such  work on paper and bronzes. Each bird, which is totally unique and hand crafted by one of the founding fathers of the British Art Pottery Movement, is an important piece of British Art history in clay.

All works featured are on sale or have been sold at Kingham & Orme, situated in Broadway, The Cotswolds. Their next Antiques, Fine Art & Collectables sale will take place on 25th November. Check out more here.

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