Beauty Is in the Eye of the Bidder; Grotesque Stoneware Animals Are an Acquired Taste but Will Fetch Thousands at Auction

By Spicer, Lorne | The Mail on Sunday (London, England), February 23, 2003 | Go to article overview

Beauty Is in the Eye of the Bidder; Grotesque Stoneware Animals Are an Acquired Taste but Will Fetch Thousands at Auction


Spicer, Lorne, The Mail on Sunday (London, England)


Byline: LORNE SPICER

THE Arts and Crafts era remains one of the most admired design periods, producing names such as William Morris, Burne-Jones, Archibald Knox and William de Morgan.

But not everything under the Arts and Crafts umbrella could be described as tasteful.

Take the work of the Martin Brothers, whose stoneware birds and animals are an acquired taste but fetch thousands at auction.

Examples are hard to come by, given that the Martin Brothers made each piece individually.

But no less than five pieces - known among experts as Grotesques - will be on offer at the Bonhams Ceramic Design 1860-1945 auction on Tuesday.

The largest example, about 12in tall, is expected to make up to pound sterling12,000 and is comparable to one the auction house sold in 1997 for pound sterling7,200.

Bonhams expert Johanna Rhodes says: 'Collectors particularly like the fact that each example has a very individual face which is quite strange.

'I suspect there are still examples hidden away in people's homes but they have no idea how significant they are in terms of collectability.' Other examples in the Bonhams sale include a large bird.

'It's what we call a Friday afternoon job because it's not such good quality,' says Johanna. 'The birds are always a bit weird, but this one is stranger still, so we have a lower estimate of pound sterling4,000 on that one. …

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