A variation of the original Connoisseur of Malvern logo began to appear on certain porcelain and mass market collectibles items that were produced between 2000 and 2007.
The original Connoisseur of Malvern studio was first sold in 1995, and that buyer subsequently sold the name and assets to American businessman a few years later. (Information about these non-original Connoisseur-branded pieces can be found in Identifying Original-Studio Connoisseur.) In 2003 “Connoisseur, Inc.” was registered as a Florida corporation by the American buyer. Arrangements were made with Bronte Porcelain (in Malvern) to produce some sculptures from molds that were supplied by the American company; this is why the sculptures produced during this time period have a backstamp in the format shown below:
This stamp appears on a sculpture of a pair of penguins. Note that the original Connoisseur logo has been modified with a curved bottom and the tiny “inc.” has been added, as has U.S.A. and also “produced by Bronte”.
Although there is no year on this stamp, the fact that it was produced in connection with Pope John Paul’s 25th anniversary effectively dates it to 2003. The initials T.A. in the corner stand for painter Tracey Arrowsmith who remained connected with both the Bronte and post-sale Connoisseur studios.
It’s not known how many early-2000s Bronte-made pieces had anything to do with any original Connoisseur of Malvern designs. Because the 1998 buyer acquired a stock of molds that were originally created and issued by the Lewis studio, and also some that were created during the tenure of the second owner (1995-1997) there was clearly a mix of both available.
Some of the other known limited edition “Bronte for Connoisseur” items made during the early 2000s included a calf, Marilyn Monroe wearing a potato sack (yes, really!) and the comic strip characters Beetle Bailey, Popeye and Betty Boop. In order to be able to produce the latter, a merchandising license had to be obtained from the characters’ copyright holders; this is shown by the resulting stamp on such items. None of these licensed designs were ever products of the original Lewis studio.
The comic strip characters appeared as limited edition figurines in 2005 and 2006. The backstamps say “Made in England” but the Bronte name does not appear, so it’s anyone’s guess as to which pottery actually produced them. Notice that after the Bronte pieces were done, the “Inc.” has disappeared from the further-tweaked logo, as has the U.S.A. designation…. further blurring the line between the original British fine art studio and the American mass merchandiser.
Apparantly at the same time, similar figurines — sorry, but I flatly refuse to call them sculptures — were also produced in “cold cast porcelain” (i.e. resin) at a lower pricepoint. This was done for both the Popeye and Betty Boop figures.
However, the company did not stop there, but also began to farm out production of made-in-China cast resin/metal Betty Boop figurines/trinket boxes at the same time. They are easily found in large quantity on both eBay and Amazon, usually as “new in box” and typically selling for $10 or less. The saddest part is that such merchandise had to carry any version whatsoever of the revered Connoisseur of Malvern name.
Florida public records show that “Connoisseur Inc.” ceased to exist as a corporation in December 2007; its owner had passed away in April of year. A midwest auction house coincidentally offered a large collection of mixed original-studio and post-sale-studio pieces in June and November 2007; the identification issues resulting from the existence of differing versions of both sculptures and backstamps are discussed in Identifying Original-Studio Connoisseur Porcelain.
See also Authentic Connoisseur of Malvern Backstamps for an illustrated overview.
Images of ©Connoisseur of Malvern porcelain sculptures are provided for informational and educational purposes only, not for reproduction, resale or advertising. All photographs are copyrighted by their owner (if known) as indicated via watermark.