Connoisseur used several different logo and backstamp formats during the almost twenty years that the studio existed, so it is useful to have an overview of them and try to assign approximate timeframes when possible.
The studio was incorporated on January 11, 1979 as Connoisseur of Malvern, Ltd., and assigned UK company code #01458486. At the time its registered address was in Birmingham but the actual studio became established in Ledbury. Diane M. Lewis and her husband Terry King Lewis were listed as two of the principals. Later records show that the company was “struck off and dissolved” as of May 12, 1998. This date will become very relevant as we look at certain examples of their logo. Let’s start with the earliest version.
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. It’s important to note that not all Connoisseur backstamps include the sculpture’s issue year.
The difference in this backstamp is that the “of Malvern” has now been dropped, and so the butterfly is simply centered over Connoisseur. I have found this on studies from the mid 1980s onward, and its use may well date from the studio’s move from Malvern to Ledbury at that time. However, this stamp alone does not indicate that the piece was make by the Diane Lewis-owned studio; see Identifying Original-Studio Pieces for further examination of this subject.
This variation of the logo, with the butterfly in the upper left corner rather than centered, was one of two used for print advertising purposes. (The other was the second stamp shown above.) However, when seen on an actual sculpture this logo becomes an indicator of a non-original-studio piece, 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 during the 1990s after the restructuring of the 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.