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Relief - Queen Victoria (1819-1901)
  • Queen Victoria (1819-1901)
    Martin, Robert Wallace, born 1843 - died 1923
  • Enlarge image

Queen Victoria (1819-1901)

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1899 (modelled)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Martin, Robert Wallace, born 1843 - died 1923 (sculptor)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mr Isaacs

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The V&A originally commissioned Robert Wallace Martin to produce this relief to commemorate the laying of the Museum's foundation stone by Queen Victoria on 17 May 1899, the last public state ceremony she attended. Its eventual path into the Museum's collections, however, was rather indirect.

C. R. Beard gives the full story in his A Catalogue of the Collection of Martinware Formed by Mr Frederick John Nettlefold, together with a Short History of the Firm of R.W. Martin and Brothers of Southall (1936). The relief was 'completed and fired in 1899 ... Thereafter it was submitted to the authorities at the Museum for approval. Only one fault was found with it - it was not coloured. [Martin] always hated criticism by those whom he considered unfit to pass artistic judgment, and in a fit of anger he put the plaque under his arm and marched out of the building. Later he gave orders for its destruction. Fortunately for future generations he did not insist upon this act of vandalism being carried out, and the plaque remained in the possession of the firm until the dispersal of the Martin Collection at Sotheby's in October, 1924. It is now in private possession, and it is to be hoped that it may one day find its way back, if not to the position which it was originally intended that it should occupy, at least to the great institution for which it was designed'.

Maurice Isaacs, whose donation ensured that the relief did find its way back to the Museum, described in a letter how he came to acquire it at the Sotheby's sale: 'I have a faint recollection of hearing, this was the stock of the Mr Martin, who died some time previous to this Sale ... It was ordered for the V.&.A. Museum, & through the Purchaser criticising it, they refused delivery, which was to have been erected on the Wall just inside the Main Entrance.'

The image is based on a well-known contemporary photograph of Victoria taken in 1897 by Bassano.

Physical description

Relief of head of Queen Victoria, crowned and facing left. Signed.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1899 (modelled)


Martin, Robert Wallace, born 1843 - died 1923 (sculptor)

Materials and Techniques


Marks and inscriptions

'R . Wallace Martin . Sc . 1899'
on truncation at the bottom


Height: 59.2 cm, Width: 46.8 cm

Object history note

Originally commissioned by the Museum, but rejected, the relief remained in the possession of the firm until it was purchased by Mr. Maurice J. Isaacs from the sale of Martinware held at Sotheby's 25 October 1924, lot 54. Originally offered to the Museum for sale by Mr Isaacs in September 1938 at the price of £5 5s, described in correspondence as a 'quarter the amount arranged by your Council and the late Mr. Martin'. Isaacs went on to record 'I was informed by his brother Edwin [Edwin Bruce Martin (1860-1915)] that it was cancelled, through a complaint, which caused offence, & that this plaque was the only one of a celebrated personage...executed by the Martin Bros'. The offer to purchase the relief from Mr Isaacs was declined; the relief was later given to the Museum by Mr Isaacs, 8 Blomfield Street, Upper Westbourne Terrace, London in 1943.

Descriptive line

Relief, terracotta, of Queen Victoria, by Robert Wallace Martin, England, 1899

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

Bilbey, Diane with Trusted, Marjorie, British Sculpture 1470 to 2000. A Concise Catalogue of the Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2002, p. 336, cat. no. 507
Beard, C.R., A catalogue of the collection of Martinware formed by Mr Frederick John Nettlefold, together with a short history of the firm of R.W. Martin and Brothers of Southhall , London, 1936, p. 29


Sculpture; Royalty; Portrait


Sculpture Collection

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