Connoisseur used three different logo and backstamp formats during the 15 years that the original studio existed, so it is useful to have an overview of them in relation to the studio’s history.
The studio was incorporated on January 11, 1979 as Connoisseur of Malvern, Ltd., and assigned UK company code #01458486. The studio was located on Grundy’s Lane in Malvern. Diane M. Lewis and her husband Terry King Lewis were listed as two of the principals. In 1986 the studio relocated to nearby Ledbury, on Lower Road. The final retail production (trading) year of the original studio was 1994, although as will be discussed elsewhere, the name and logo were acquired and used by other parties for some years after that.
Let’s begin with the earliest version of the original Connoisseur backstamp logo.
The first Connoisseur of Malvern backstamp incorporates their proprietary ‘As seen through the eyes of a butterfly’ phrase, arching over their butterfly logo centered over the full name (not including the Ltd.). This logo appeared on studies released in the early 1980s. Not all of the Connoisseur backstamps included the sculpture’s issue year but the appearance of the logo can provide clues.
This version lacks the “as seen through…” element but is otherwise identical to the logo shown above. This stamp format was in use until the studio’s relocation to Ledbury in mid-1986 although I have not yet found it on any piece bearing an introduction year after 1985.
The difference in this backstamp is that the “of Malvern” has now been dropped, and so the butterfly is simply centered over Connoisseur. This “Ledbury stamp” is the logo that appears on pieces produced from 1986 onward. However, this stamp by itself does not indicate that the piece was made by the Diane Lewis-owned studio; see Identifying Original-Studio Pieces for further examination of this very tricky subject.
This variation of the logo, with the butterfly in the upper left corner rather than centered, was only used for print advertising purposes by the original studio. It’s very important to know that when this logo is seen on an actual porcelain sculpture it is a sure indicator of a circa-2000s non-original-studio piece that was produced by another company entirely, as discussed here.
Some backstamps also include the name of the original designer in stamped form, as shown here on a Diane Lewis-designed piece. Some online sellers mistakenly describe this as being “signed by” that person, which is incorrect; this is a stamped identifcation only, and is not an actual handwritten signature. The example above shows a piece that has both the stamped Diane Lewis name (between the stamped edition information line and the year-of-issue line) and an actual Diane Lewis personal signature, probably done at a special event, below the artist icons. A piece having only the stamped signature would not be “signed by” the artist, however.
Special Collections Backstamps
Connoisseur produced a number of special collections, not only on behalf of charitable organizations but also for two of their major USA retailers. The Fledglings of North America series was created for sale by Neiman Marcus and this is clearly indicated on the backstamp shown below.
A limited edition series of whimsical animal sculptures was created in 1990 for Brielle Galleries under the heading of the Thisledown Collection; this series will be profiled in a future article. By the way, I have no idea whether the spelling of the collection name as “Thisledown” was deliberate or was a typographical error for “thistledown”! The copyright symbol next to the word seems to indicate that the unusual spelling was probably intentional.
The Rainforest Foundation series in 1990 was a combination of open editions (such as the Poison Dart Frog) and limited editions such as the floral study Forest Chorus.
Diane Lewis Chance Backstamps
There are examples of Diane Lewis’ work which do not bear any of the Connoisseur of Malvern stamps, but instead are marked as by Diane Lewis Chance and/or with a “D by D” (Design by Diane) logo. These were produced as special commissions after the sale of the original Connoisseur studio. Mrs Lewis added her maiden name (Chance) to her surname on these backstamps so as to differentiate the sculptures from the Connoisseur of Malvern works.
Sculptures bearing these backstamps can be seen here.
An overview of what I call the “pseudo-Connoisseur” backstamps is found here. Those backstamps appear on items that were produced during the 2000s. However, none of them were produced by the original Connoisseur studio although their appearance (or incorrect attribution by secondary-market sellers) can confuse the unwary. Additional help in distinguishing original studio from post-sale studio sculptures can be found on this page.