A Tail of the Unexpected

31st October 2018

A ghoulish, grimacing stoneware dog, which epitomises all the malevolence of All Hallows’ Eve, has captured the imagination of visitors to Woolley & Wallis’s Castle Gate Office in Salisbury. It’s not just the Halloween connection which is attracting attention; measuring just nine inches high (23cm), the grotesque and highly unusual stoneware dog jar and lid from the Martin Brothers pottery goes up for auction later this year with an estimated value of between £30,000 and £50,000.


The four Martin brothers, known for the eccentricity of their work, started producing pottery at the family home in Fulham in 1877, later expanding to Southall and opening a dealership in Holburn. Much of their work focuses on whimsical pieces featuring birds and exotic sea creatures and on surreal, outlandish models of animals and mystical beasts with human facial characteristics.


This piece, a dog crouched on all fours with human features and a wide, smiling toothy grin is an excellent example of their art and is expected to be highly popular and much sought after by collectors when auctioned at Woolley & Wallis’s auction of British Art Pottery on December 12.


“This amazing sculpture made in 1884 shows the creativity of Robert Wallace Martin, a potter whose pioneering grotesque birds and animals relate to both Darwin’s Origin of Species(first published in 1859) and Lewis Carroll’s magical creatures in Alice in Wonderland (first published in 1865) and highlights the Victorians’ fascination with the grotesque,” said Michael Jeffery, Associate Director and 20th Century Design Specialist.


The auction house has sold many Martin Brothers pieces over the years including a similarly grotesque jar which sold well above valuation at auction for £50,000 and two large birds dated 1896, characterising the Victorian politicians Gladstone and Disraeli which sold privately for a record £150,000.


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