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Tobacco jar - Martin Ware
  • Martin Ware
    Martin, Robert Wallace, born 1843 - died 1923
  • Enlarge image

Martin Ware

  • Object:

    Tobacco jar

  • Place of origin:

    Southall (made)

  • Date:

    1887 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Martin, Robert Wallace, born 1843 - died 1923 (modeller)
    Martin Brothers (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Salt-glazed stoneware, ebonised wood

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Alfred R. Holland, Esq.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 145, case 52 []

If Martin-ware [… has] not the transparency of porcelain nor the elaborately and costly ornamentation of Sèvres [it is] pure and honest art work.

This is how the art critic Cosmo Monkhouse described the output of the Martin Brothers' studio in The Magazine of Art in 1882. Eccentric founder Robert Wallace Martin and his siblings Charles, Walter and Edwin epitomized the energy and experimentation of the nineteenth-century art pottery movement. They regarded pottery as a means of artistic expression, rather than a product of industrial manufacture, and were particularly inspired by the naturalistic and rustic flora and fauna forms of the sixteenth-century potter Bernard Palissy (see p.000).
This jar is typical of the Martin Brothers' grotesque and eccentric stonewares and demonstrates a unique blend of fantasy and imagination. The function of these anthropomorphic lidded wares, which were produced in many different shapes and sizes, is unclear. They have been called 'tobacco jars', since Monkhouse used this term, but they are not airtight and the interiors are not finished to a standard fit for storage, suggesting an essentially ornamental and aesthetic purpose.
The Martin Brothers drew upon an eclectic range of sources for their work and it is possible that these jars were inspired by traditional English owl-shaped pottery jugs. Martin-ware birds are not of any known species, and in many examples the lidded heads are made to swivel on the body, further enhancing their irregular form, which evades both meaning and classification.

Physical description

Tobacco jar and cover. Stoneware. Modelled, carved and incised in the form of a grotesque bird. Ivory, green, brown & black glaze. Round ebonised wooden base.

Place of Origin

Southall (made)


1887 (made)


Martin, Robert Wallace, born 1843 - died 1923 (modeller)
Martin Brothers (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Salt-glazed stoneware, ebonised wood

Marks and inscriptions

'R.W. Martin & Brothers / London & Southall / 1-1887'
Maker's mark incised on neck of lid

'R.W. Martin Bro / Southall 87'
Maker's mark incised on foot


Height: 30 cm with mount, Width: 17.6 cm with mount

Descriptive line

Large bird 'Martin Ware' tobacco jar, salt-glazed stoneware, modelled by R. Wallace Martin and made by Martin Bros., Southall, 1887

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Liefkes, Reino and Hilary Young, eds. Masterpieces of World Ceramics.. London: V & A Publishing, 2008. p. 122, ill. ISBN 9781 851 775279.

Labels and date

Sculpture 'Martin Ware'
Modelled by R. Wallace Martin, made by the Martin Bros., Southall, Middlesex, England, 1887
Marks: 'R W Martin & Brothers, London & Southall 1-1887, R Wallace Martin Sc. Southall 87', incised
Salt-glazed stoneware

C.1151&A-1917 Given by Alfred. R. Holland Esq. [23/05/2008]




Modelled; Carved; Incised; Painted


Ceramics; Art Pottery


Ceramics Collection

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