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.

In the 1870's, Robert Wallace the man behind the birds, 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.

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.

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.

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.

AD Antiques, founded by Alison Davey, is one of the UK's leading dealers in British Art Pottery. AD Antiques' stock collection includes Martin Brothers as well as other important names in British pottery such as William de Morgan, William Moorcroft, Doulton Lambeth, Pilkington's Royal Lancastrian, Ruskin and Wedgwood. In addition AD Antiques have a catalogue which includes small studio factories such as Della Robbia, Compton and Morrisware that, along with their larger contemporaries, all of those which made important contributions to the British Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau and Art Deco Movements.

For more Martin Brothers pieces and other ceramics, check out AD Antiques on Barnebys here.

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