Sunday - 21 December 2014

Martinware – more than just chasing birds

08 October 2011Written by Anne Crane

THE famous caricature birds crown the top of the tree for Martinware collectors. This is still a strong market where, feels Bonhams’ specialist Mark Oliver, a really top-calibre model could command £40,000 if it came on the market.

But here, as elsewhere, buyers are selective.

Bonhams had three birds in their Ceramics Design sale on September 21-22, but only one found a buyer.

This 9in (23cm) high version on a wood base incised Martin & Bro London & Southall 4-1899 and RW Martin & Bro to the head took a mid-estimate £17,000. But a similar size bird of c.1900 guided at £18,000-22,000 and a smaller, 7in (18cm) high bird glazed in blue dated 1913 (estimate £10,000-15,000) both failed to sell.

But birds are not the only productions that carry kudos these days and at this sale it was other examples of the brothers' handiwork that were more in demand. Two single-owner properties - one from the UK and one from New York - made for a particularly good selection of large vases decorated with characterful fish and other marine motifs.

A 12in (30cm) high pale blue example came from the British property and, like much of the collection, had been acquired from the elder statesman of ceramic design, Richard Dennis, purchased in his 1978 Martin Brothers exhibition. Market-fresh and in pristine condition, it was pursued to £9500, selling to a UK collector. 

 

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Above: the 12in (30cm) high pale blue vase, in pristine condition, which sold for £9500 at Bonhams.

 

The two identically-shaped flagons from the New York collection, 10¼in (26cm) high, signed and dated 6-1897 and estimated at £2000-2500 piece, are a good illustration, felt Mark Oliver, of how condition has a bearing on price.

The first to come up was the object of a two-way room battle before a phone bidder took over to secure it at £7000. The second had two tiny rim chips and went for £3500 to US dealer Aaron Rimpley.

He also gave a mid-estimate £5500 for a 12¼in (31cm) fish- and crustacea-decorated baluster vase of 1890. 

Crab-like spook

But arguably the strongest Martinware price of the day was tendered for a strange 3½in (8cm) crab-like creature. A typical evocation of the potters' unique style, it overturned a £2000-3000 guide to take £10,000.

The buyer's premium was 25/20/12%.

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