R. W. Martin & Brothers - Design Evening New York Thursday, December 13, 2018 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Sotheby’s, Belgravia, “Studio Ceramics,” November 8, 1973, lot 487
    Dr. Washington, 1973
    Richard Dennis Gallery, London
    Sotheby’s, Belgravia, “Studio Ceramics,” July 12, 1979, lot 219
    William E. Wiltshire, London
    Sotheby’s, London, “The William E. Wiltshire Collection,” November 18, 1991, lot 80
    John S. M. Scott, Esq., London
    The Fine Art Society, London
    Sinai and Sons, London, 2014
    Acquired from the above

  • Exhibited

    "The Martin Brothers Potters," Sotheby's Belgravia, London, September 16-October 14, 1978
    “The John Scott Collection: Decorative Arts from the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries,” The Fine Art Society, London, June 11-20, 2014
    “Fantastique,” Sinai and Sons, Masterpiece, London, June 25-July 1, 2015

  • Literature

    The Martin Brothers Potters, exh. cat., Sotheby's Belgravia, London, 1978, p. 19, no. 333
    Malcolm Haslam, The Martin Brothers Potters, London, 1978, illustrated p. 132
    The John Scott Collection: British Art Pottery, Volume 3, exh. cat., The Fine Art Society, London, June 11 - 20, 2014, illustrated cover, pp. 34-35
    Timothy Brittain-Catlin, "Full House, Every Inch of John Scott's Notting Hill Home...," The World of Interiors, July 2014, illustrated p. 103
    Fantastique, exh. cat., Sinai and Sons, London, 2015, illustrated pp. 48-49

  • Catalogue Essay

    Robert Wallace Martin may have felt some sort of kinship to Sir Edward Clarke (1841-1931). They were born in the City of London, less than half a mile apart, and within two years of each other, Clarke being the older man. Both had shown a fierce independence of spirit and a determination to succeed in their chosen, albeit very different, careers.

    Wallace's caricature of the famous barrister emphasizes the narrowness of Clarke's eyes (whether that was a natural feature or a forensic gimmick) and has not spared his victim's tendency towards corpulence as he had grown older and more successful. Sir Edward had stood for the defense in several high profile cases, including the so-called Royal Baccarat Case, in which he had famously cross-examined the Prince of Wales, and, most notably, the three trials of Oscar Wilde in 1896. There is a contemporary photograph of this bird along side another bird with a note on the verso of the print, in Clarke's handwriting, that identifies this piece as a caricature of himself, and the other as a caricature of the Liberal prime minister William Gladstone.

    Wallace always kept abreast of the major news topics of the day and sometimes drew on them as a source of inspiration for items of pottery. For example, when the public was avidly devouring newspaper stories about polar expeditions, Wallace made several of his so-called "Eskimo" jugs. As well as bird-jars caricaturing Clarke, Gladstone, and Disraeli, there were low-relief portrait plaques of Queen Victoria, commemorating her Golden and Diamond Jubilees. At the height of the political debate over tariff reform, in the early years of the twentieth century, Wallace modeled a face-jug with Arthur Balfour caricatured on one side, and Joseph Chamberlain on the other. It should be remembered that one of the many jobs Wallace had after abandoning his formal education was working as an office-boy for a parliamentary reporter in Westminster.

    Wallace maintained a keen interest in current affairs right up to the end; Sydney Greenslade, visiting the pottery during WWI, found Wallace (then in his seventies) modeling a three-handled mug commemorating the destruction of a zeppelin, and carving an allegorical group with personifications of Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, and Turkey riding a grotesque beast. By then, of course, Walter and Edwin were dead and the pottery virtually defunct. Fortunately, this bird-jar caricature of Sir Edward Clarke was sculpted, colored and fired when the Martin brothers' skills were at their zenith.

Property from a Private Collection


Sir Edward George Clarke QC caricatured as a tall distinguished fantastical bird jar and cover

February 1898
Salt-glazed stoneware, ebonized wood.
15 1/8 in. (38.4 cm) high
Collar incised Martin Bros/London + Southall/2-1898, base incised 2-1898/Martin Bros/London + Southall, and firm's printed paper label MARTIN BROS./POTTERS,/16. BROWNLOW ST.,/HIGH HOLBORN,/LONDON and James Bourlet & Sons Ltd. printed paper label. Together with period photograph signed and dated E.C 7.11.1925.

$150,000 - 250,000 

Sold for $175,000

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Design Evening

New York Auction 13 December 2018