An early Martin Brothers spoon warmer that was previously used as a doorstop is set to make up to £18,000 at auction.
The stoneware sculpture is typically modelled as a grotesque creature with a wide mouth and is signed by Robert Wallace Martin, the eldest of the four brothers that made up the London-based pottery firm. The unusual stamped mark suggests that it was made in the first decade of the brothers’ partnership, which operated from the 1870s through to 1914, and as such should be highly desirable to modern collectors.
The object was not always held in such high regard, however, as the vendor’s grandmother acquired it in 1946 when she agreed to take it in return for one of her rationing coupons. It has remained in the family ever since, and its habit of propping a door open only came to light when art pottery specialist, Michael Jeffery of Woolley and Wallis, queried some glue residue on one of the creature’s toes. It was then that the vendor’s aunt suggested the damage to the toe may have happened when the warmer was being used as a doorstop.
Fortunately the current owner thought rather more of the piece and recognised it for what it was, bringing it to Michael Jeffery to sell in his Arts & Crafts auction on 19th June. Mr Jeffery’s department holds the record for the highest price achieved for a Martin Brother’s spoon warmer, with £44,000 achieved for an unusual warmer in 2014. He says, “This is a great example of the brothers’ work and although it is undated, the stamped mark tells us that it is an early piece and that will certainly appeal to collectors. Its colourful history will surely add to its appeal, as will the fact that it has not been on the market since the Second World War.”
The spoon warmer is one of 44 lots of Martin ware being included in the sale in Salisbury on 19th June, alongside no fewer than six of their well-known anthropomorphic bird jars.