Sixteen pieces of Martin Brothers pottery were taken in May 2005 during a break-in. Later, in March 2007, Ealing Council suffered another loss when 24 items of Martinware were taken from Pitzhanger Manor House.
The bird, now returned to the council, was recovered with the help of art pottery specialist Alison Davey of AD Antiques and Christopher Marinello, a recovery specialist from Art Recovery International.
Davey saw the jar (modelled by Robert Wallace Martin) advertised on social media and received no provenance when she made an enquiry. It had previously been offered for sale on eBay.
Aware of several large thefts of Martin Brothers pieces, Davey undertakes full due diligence with any purchase.
After she contacted Art Recovery in September, Marinello “negotiated an unconditional release from the possessor [with] cooperation from the Metropolitan Police”.
Dr Jonathan Oates, museum archivist at Ealing Council, now hopes others from the two thefts may surface. Outstanding pieces include 11 bird jars, seven face jugs, a dragon spoon warmer, an imp musician, a model of Pickwick, a queen chess piece and the upper tier of a fountain.
Davey said: “I would encourage the museum to circulate the images of the birds again and also urge the dealers to undertake due diligence checks so that the public have peace of mind when buying high-value items.”
Marinello said Antiques Trade Gazette had helped in the recovery and added: “Thanks to the ATG archive, we were able to gather the information we needed on the two thefts.”
The council’s significant collections of Martinware reflect the location of the Martinware factory, which operated in Southall between 1877-1923.