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  • Jar
    Martin, Robert Wallace, born 1843 - died 1923
  • Enlarge image


  • Place of origin:

    Southall (made)

  • Date:

    1891 (dated)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Salt-glazed stoneware

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Miss M. A. M. Hart

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Object Type
The output of the Martin Brothers pottery of London was always highly ornamented, even including its useful wares. The brothers were intensely interested in surface decoration. They made almost any type of ware from clockcases to tablewares to jardiniéres (stands for flower pots). The Martins worked exclusively in salt-glazed stoneware with a distinctive semi-matt, speckled surface and a limited colour range of browns, blues and greens. Their wares usually have additional incised decoration and sometimes applied ornament. The heavily modelled exterior of this jar, though described as a tobacco jar, means that there is little room inside to store tobacco.

There were four Martin brothers, and they worked as a team. Robert Wallace (1843-1923), the eldest, was generally responsible for throwing and modelling, Walter Fraser (1857-1912) for decorating, and Edwin Bruce (1860-1915) for glaze development and kiln management. In practice, each could take on the role of the others. From the late 1870s Charles Douglas (1846-1910) ran the brothers' sales from their shop in Brownlow Street, Holborn, London, but even he is known to have produced some models. However, the Martins did have outside help for both the practical side of the business, such as the throwing and firing, and also for some designing and modelling. Robert Wallace is most commonly associated with the sculptural bird models, such as this jar. There is no suggestion that any designer or sculptor other than a Martin brother was responsible for any of these highly and distinctively characterised designs.

This fantastical bird is typical of the Martin brothers' imaginative designs. It is also characteristic of late Victorian drawings such as those by John Tenniel (1820-1914) for Alice in Wonderland, or Ernest Griset's comical birds drawn as cartoon comments on Darwinism and the debate on evolution for Punch magazine in the early 1880s. The scientist Charles Darwin's (1809-1882) The Descent of Man, in which he discussed human evolution, was published in 1881. Some of the Martins' earliest birds, done in the mid-1880s, were made as caricatures of the prominent politicians Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) and William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898). Also part of this later Victorian fascination with nature and fantastic variations on it were the writings of Edward Lear (1812-1888). Cosmo Monkhouse, in 'Some Original Ceramists' in The Magazine of Art in 1882, wrote, 'We have a hundred young sculptors who will model you a Venus or an Adonis as soon as look at you; but who save Mr Martin could give you a Boojum or a Snark in the round?'

Physical description

TOBACCO JAR in the form of a bird

Place of Origin

Southall (made)


1891 (dated)


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

Materials and Techniques

Salt-glazed stoneware

Marks and inscriptions

Inside the head painted in black script: 'R.W. Martin & Bro: London & Southall. 1891.'


Height: 27.7 cm, Width: 13.6 cm, Height: 10 cm Cover only, Width: 12.2 cm Cover only, Diameter: 8.6 cm Cover only, Height: 21 cm Jar only, Diameter: 8.6 cm Jar only, Height: 27 cm Jar and cover, Diameter: 13.5 cm Jar and cover

Object history note

Made by R.W.Martin & Brothers, Southall, London; probably modelled by Robert Wallace Martin (born in 1832, died in 1923)

Descriptive line

Jar and cover in the form of a bird, salt-glazed stoneware, made by the Martin Brothers, Southall, England, 1891

Labels and date

British Galleries:
The Martin brothers' most celebrated wares are the sculptural bird-shaped tobacco jars. Robert Wallace Martin was the sculptor and key figure of the team but his three brothers were also involved in the throwing, glazing and selling of their products. [27/03/2003]
Tobacco jar 'Martin Ware'
Modelled by R. Wallace Martin, made by the Martin Bros., Southall, Middlesex, England, 1891
Mark: 'R W Martin & Bro. London & Southall 7-1891', painted
Salt-glazed stoneware with coloured glazes

C.6-1976 Miss M.A.M. Hart Bequest [23/05/2008]


Ceramics; Containers; Figures & Decorative ceramics


Ceramics Collection

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