Neoclassical Terra-cotta Plaques
A rare near pair of terra-cotta plaques, one with a maiden, classically dressed and with a ewer, possibly representing Hebe, the other a male youth playing a pipe, both shown in a rocky landscape, by Robert Wallace Martin (1843-1923). The female plaque incised “R.W. MARTIN. 1868. Sc.” and impressed “R.W.M.”, 25.75 ins. high, 12.75 ins. wide, the male incised “R Wallace Martin 1871-2 Sc B4 3, and impressed “R.W.M.”. English, 1868 and 1871-2, 26.25 ins. high, 13 ins. wide. Their color difference likely results from the four year span between the two works.
Robert Wallace Martin was a sculptor by training, having studied with the English architectural sculptor, J.B. Phillips. He also took classes at the Lambeth School of Art. In 1873 Martin founded Martinware Pottery in Fulham, soon after involving his brothers Edwin, Walter and Charles in the business. The Martin Brothers were primarily known for fantastical vessels, lidded jars, and other art pottery, mostly with bird (called “Wally Birds”) and animal themes. Their whimsical pieces were mainly done in stoneware, glazed in a muted green, gray, blue, and brown palette. These plaques, then, are not indicative of the typical Martin Brothers style, but are representative of Robert Wallace Martin’s early classical training. These plaques may also have been inspired by the works of the nearby Doulton Pottery, known for their very traditional terra-cotta products. Martinware moved to a new manufactory on Havelock Road in the Southall section of London. The firm was active until 1915.
Barbara says, "Once in a while I come across something that is so beautiful that I don't even inquire much about it. I was surprised and pleased to find that these are by the renowned Martin Brothers who are more often recognized for their whimsical pieces. The quality of these reliefs tells us that the Martins could also create very refined classical pieces".