A Guide to Martin Brothers Pottery Markings
‘Flamboyant’ is one of the best words used to describe the original style of The Martin Brothers pottery and stoneware. These stoneware musician imp figures sold for £1200 and £1800 each, respectively, at our September 2020 Fine Art sale.
The History of The Martin Brothers and Their Work
The Martin Brothers were four brothers who set up a pottery manufacturing business in London. Working from the 1873 to 1915, they were famous for exuberant and lively work that was often referred to as the origin of ‘art pottery’, or studio pottery as we know it today.
Their groundbreaking pottery and stoneware is instantly recognisable and is gaining popularity with collectors. You might find their work is called Martinware, as their pottery grew into its own unusual style.
The four brothers, Wallace, Walter, Charles and Edwin, are mostly known for their surprising and unusual face jugs, bowls, sculptures and vases, along with their Wally Bird ornamental sculptures. In recent years, the Wally Birds have increased in popularity, especially in America, which has led to high auction prices and an increasing demand for collectors, we’ve even seen this in our own auctions. Therefore, it’s essential to identify your Martin Brother pieces correctly.
The Brothers work is also very distinguishable for the style in which it’s made, using salt glaze on their stoneware. This method means the pottery can have a rough surface, or an ‘orange-peel’ texture, as they used salt in the kiln process. It was this experimental style that really pushed the brothers’ work into the mainstream.
In September 2020, this stunning Martin Brothers vase sold for an incredible £3,700! Dated from 1889, the vase is decorated with unique sea animals such as fish, snakes and jellyfish.
How to Identify Martin Brothers Pottery
To spot if your Martin Brothers pottery is valuable, you’ll need to identify the date of its creation. One way to do this is to examine the base of the piece. The Martin Brothers marked their pottery using incised signature markings. Often this marking was changed or updated when they moved factories.
- Pieces dated from 1873–1874 will be marked with the Martin Brothers address in Fulham
- Pieces dated form 1874–1878 will be marked with the Martin Brothers address in London
- Pieces dated form 1878–1879 will be marked with the Martin Brothers address in Southall
- Pieces dated form 1879–1915 will be marked with the Martin Brothers address in Southall and London
- Generally, after 1882 pieces will also be marked with the word ‘brothers’ or ‘bros’
You’ll see an example below that has been incised into the ceramic base. As it’s dated 1903, you can also see the ‘bros’ added to the location of the factory.
Photo Credit: Antique Marks.
Do you recognise any of these markings on your pieces? If you need further support, Potteries Auctions can step in and help you identify your Martinware pieces.
The work of the Martin Brothers has inspired so many other potters, such as Burslem Potter Andrew Hull. His Grotesque Bird, ‘Vincent the Vulture’, was said to be specifically influenced by the Martin Brothers.
How Much is My Martin Brothers Pottery Worth?
Martin Brother pieces can go for astronomical amounts at auction, but it’s important to get accurate valuations, as there are lots of copies and ‘look-a-like’ pieces out there. You can trust our team of auctioneers and professionals to deal with your queries and concerns.
It's hard to get your hands on an original Martin Brothers piece, but we often see replica pieces at our auctions, such as this eccentric design. This grotesque face jug in the style of Martin Brothers solder for £130 at one of our actions.
At Potteries Auctions, we can identify and provide valuations on a wide range of Martin Brothers pieces. Our team can help value your collection, turn you into a collector or advise on how much your Martin Brothers pottery could be worth.
Please get in touch with us to discuss how we can help you or request a call back if you are looking for an expert evaluation and are seeking to sell your Martin Brothers sculptures. Alternatively, you can join us at one of our valuation days every Tuesday. Email us for an appointment on [email protected] or call us on +44 (0)1782 638100 Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm.