A variation of the original Connoisseur of Malvern logo began to appear on certain porcelain and mass market collectibles items that were produced during the 2000s.
The original Connoisseur of Malvern studio was bought in the late 1990s by an American businessman, and in early 2003 “Connoisseur, Inc.” was registered as a Florida corporation. Arrangements were made with Bronte Porcelain (in Malvern) to produce some sculptures from molds that were supplied by this 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 limited edition 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”.
It’s not known which – if any – of these post-2000 Bronte-made pieces had anything to do with any original Connoisseur of Malvern designs. It’s possible they may have been sculptures which the original studio did create but decided not to produce, but equally possible that they were new-ownership design team designs. The Connoisseur name combined with the butterfly logo could now be put onto anything the new owner desired to sell under the brand name that they had presumably bought along with the molds and/or remaining finished or blank sculptures.
Some of the other known limited edition “Bronte for Connoisseur” items made during the early 2000s included a glazed figurine of Pope John Paul II, a calf, Marilyn Monroe wearing a potato sack (yes, really!) and the comic strip characters Beetle Bailey, Popeye and Betty Boop. Of course, 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.
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 earlier that year. A midwest auction house offered a large collection of mixed original-studio and post-sale-studio pieces during the second half of that year; 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.