JUST when you thought it was safe to go back into the softening Martinware market, along comes a £26,000 spoon-warmer.
Asking why a pug-nosed creature wearing an angry toothy grimace
was so attractive sounds a little wrong. What makes it so
unattractive is perhaps a better way of putting it.
It is the minutiae of character - perhaps a fleeting resemblance
to a friend or foe - that determines whether or not a Martinware
collector truly falls in love.
According to Woolley & Wallis specialist
Michael Jeffery, the Robert Wallace Martin model which appeared in
the Salisbury auctioneers' 20th century design sale on June 3 was
"as good as it gets".
It was two British collectors who competed it to a record sum
for a Martin Brothers spoon-warmer.
The 5.5in (14cm) tall creature was incised R W Martin Bros &
Southall and estimated at £6000-9000 - the sort of money other more
typical examples have fetched in recent times.
It came from the same private collection as two other Robert
Wallace Martin spoon-warmers in the sale, but as these had both
seen fairly extensive repairs, they each made their lower estimates
All but one of the 35 items of Martinware sold, a solid result
aided by a good number of new clients entering this niche field
which has seen some astronomic prices in the past.
Many of the major prices were previously paid for the large bird
jars - a boom which was principally driven by just one collector
and which caused other collectors to move to other areas of the
market, such as imps and face jugs.
There was one 9.5in (24cm) bird jar and cover in the W&W
sale, but this was being reoffered for a second time, suffering
from various damages such as a loosened head, and sold on its lower
estimate at £8000.
Martinware designs often attract the same collectors as the
anthropomorphic Doulton Lambeth animal groups by George Tinworth,
and the Salisbury sale included two Tinworth stoneware groups from
the same collection as the spoonwarmers. Despite both having been
restored, they achieved strong prices from British collectors.
A 5in (13cm) high Play Goers mouse group, with impressed marks
and GT monogram, made a top-estimate £3000, just
behind the £3200 for the Play Goers group sold at Canterbury
Auction Galleries in March this year.
The other Tinworth piece was a studious frog reading a book atop
a plinth inscribed In memory of Public Library Act - the
1850 Act that was the genesis for the modern public
library system. The 5.5in (14cm) high frog was also impressed with
the GT monogram and bore restoration to the base, but
against expectations of £700-900 made £1600.
There was also plenty of competition for a pair of William
Wordsworth Royal Doulton twin-handled loving cups designed by
Charles Noke. These 6.5in (17cm) vases, modelled in low relief with
portraits of Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, are among the
rarest of the many loving cups and jugs designed by Noke in the
early 1930s. Even in a depressed market, the £200-300 estimate
required some readjustment: they went to the Doulton trade at
The buyer's premium was 17.5%