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Owl: C.41 & A-1928

An image of Punch bowl

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Object information

Current Location: Gallery 27 (Glaisher)




Pottery: Martin Brothers
Potter: Martin, Robert Wallace




Stoneware punch bowl modeled in the shape of an owl, the cover forming the head, painted with cream, green, grey and brown coloured slips, and salt-glazed.

The owl, of monumental size, stands face-forward, supported by six large claws splayed around a hexagonal base. The representation is naturalistic, but the bird has quizzical, human-like expression. Both head and body are finely modelled, with particular attention to the feathers, which are painted in shades of brown slip with additional marks in brown and black. The wings are folded behind, the ears are raised and the beak is open. The eyes, made as deep hollow orbs with the pupils cut out, are encircled by cream coloured radial feathers. The glaze on the body is thinly applied, giving a matt finish; the glaze on the face and head is thicker, and shiny. There are two holes drilled down through the base, behind the claws, to attach the owl to a stand.


History note: Robert Wallace Martin (d. 1923); sold at Sotheby's, 24 October, 1924 'Extensive collection of Martinware; old English furniture. The whole remaining stock of finished pieces of the Martin factory, the property of R.W. Martin Esq. (deceased). Sold by order of the administrator', lot 68; bought by Cyril Andrade for Dr Glaisher for £25.

Legal notes

Dr J.W.L.Glaisher Bequest

Measurements and weight

Diameter: 35.5 cm
Diameter: 14 in
Height: 103 cm
Height: 40 in

Place(s) associated

  • Southall ⪼ Middlesex ⪼ England

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1928) by Glaisher, J. W. L., Dr


20th Century, Early
Production date: dated AD 1903


Another huge, albeit squatter, Martin Brothers owl with detachable head was formerly in the collection of private collector Daryl Fromm - pictured in the sale catalogue Woolley & Wallis, British Art Pottery, 27 November 2019, p. 6.

Robert Wallace Martin (1843-24) and his brothers Walter (1857-1912) and Edwin (1860-1915) were amongst the first ‘artist-potters’ of the late nineteenth century. They designed, made and decorated their own ornamental salt-glazed stoneware, originally using facilities at C.J.C.Bailey’s Fulham Pottery and, briefly, at Shepherd’s Bush. In 1877, they opened their own pottery at Southall, Middlesex, and by 1882 were producing some 5,000 pieces a year. Wallace had originally trained as a sculptor, exhibiting his work at the Royal Academy and elsewhere from c.1863. His younger brothers had learned their skills at Doulton’s, Walter as a thrower and chemist, Edwin as a decorator. Modelled work is generally attributed to Wallace, but otherwise it is thought that the three learned from each other, exchanging skills and sharing roles. A fourth brother, Charles (1846-1910), sold the products – known as ‘Martin-ware’ – from a shop at Brownlow Street, London.

The Fitzwilliam collection also contains an example of the Martins’ more common ‘Wally Birds’, an anthropomorphic bird with large beak and comically-wise expression, 13.2 cm (C.1226 & A-1928).

This owl probably resembles a punch bowl said to have been made by Robert Wallace Martin for the Bohemian Club of San Francisco, a literary club founded in 1972, which has an owl as its emblem. According to the ceramic historian J F Blackler, the first model for this developed a firing crack and was not dispatched, but another arrived safely only to be destroyed by the 1906 earthquake. The Fitzwilliam’s owl also has a firing crack, and probably for that reason remained at the Martin Brothers’ pottery until it was sold to Dr Glaisher at the 1924 sale which followed Wallace’s death the previous year.

School or Style

Art Pottery

People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Decoration composed of slip ( cream, green, grey and brown)
Head Height 38.5 cm Height 15 in

Materials used in production


Techniques used in production

Hand building : Stoneware jar and lid, modelled in the shape of an owl, painted with cream, grey and brown coloured slips, and salt-glazed

Inscription or legends present

  • Text: 'R.W. Martin. & Brothers.London & Southall. England'
  • Location: Round the neck
  • Method of creation: Incised and painted in black
  • Type: Mark
  • Text: R.W.M., Sc.
  • Location: Round the neck
  • Method of creation: Inscribed
  • Type: Mark
  • Text: '9.1903/R.W.Martin & Bros/London & Southall'
  • Location: On the upper right hand rear side of the base
  • Method of creation: Incised and painted in black
  • Type: Mark

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.41 & A-1928
Primary reference Number: 137205
Old object number: 4451
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Wednesday 15 July 2020 Last processed: Monday 18 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

Citation for print

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "Owl" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-06-17 06:32:30

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{{cite web|url= |title=Owl |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2024-06-17 06:32:30|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

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