Although Christoper Ashenden may be better known for his Connoisseur of Malvern bird sculptures, he created quite a number of absolutely spectacular felines for them as well.
Although some of the examples shown below do not have wood bases, it’s quite likely that they originally did come with one… typically made of cherry or walnut.
His magnificent Snow Leopard is as powerful a sculpture in size as in style: it measures a whopping 31” long end-to-end, and 22” high (78 cm x 58 cm). Only 25 were created, and it was priced at $11,500 at its USA introduction in 1990.
The 1988 Puma was a limited issue of 25 and measures 19” (48 cm) high and equally wide. The ferocity of his gaze is enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine. This big cat (Puma concolor) is native to the Americas and is also known as the cougar, mountain lion, and catamount; a National Geographic article called this species the “cat of many names”!
The Puma Cubs are 14.5″ high. Unfortunately, the details of this edition (introduction year and date) are not known.
Snow Prince represents the magnificent Siberian tiger, Panthera tigris altaica. This sculpture is 15” (39 cm) high and was a limited issue of 25. The example shown here has missing and/or damaged whiskers; however, it’s the first photo I have found of one that still had its original wood base (albeit damaged.) One wonders how or why a base designed only to be used for a specific item can so often go missing, though!
This sculpture has a somewhat unusual backstamp, in that the “snow” part is not in the same size font as the “prince”….but all of them seen to date have been in that format.
Update, 2020: Thanks to a helpful Archive reader, I am now aware that there was a white-colorway edition of Snow Prince – or perhaps Snow Prince was an alternate colorway of this piece! In any case, these two editions are from the same mold. This is titled White Tiger.
It is imporant to distinguish this 1986 limited edition of 25 (this particular piece happens to be autograph-dated October 1990 by Christopher Ashenden) from the “White Tiger”edition that was produced in the early 2000s by a subsequent owner of the studio. That later item is actually a white-colorway reproduction of the circa 1980s Royal Bengal Tiger by the original studio, earlier in the post. When identifying any white tiger that is marked as Connoisseur, it is vital to examine the backstamp/signature area to determine what studio it actually came from. Subsequent owners used the original Connoisseur logo regardless of where those later pieces were actually made. Notice that the White Tiger is also walking on “snow”, thus puncturing my initial theory that the ‘snow’ in Snow Prince refers to the habitat being depicted!
Here’s yet another “big cat” that has lost its original base: the Leopard which was an edition of 25. The seller gave its length as 33.5″ (85 cm) but did not provide a height. However, it is probably similar to the Snow Leopard and Puma at about 20″ (51 cm.)
I would not be particularly comfortable meeting up with a live version of this Lynx if alone in the woods – just look at those sharp claws! A solitary and nocturnal hunter, Felis lynx is adapted to life in the northern forests but is now a threatened species. This sculpture is 24” (61 cm) high and was a limited edition of 25.
Ashenden’s depiction of the largest member of the cat family is called Simba. An edition of 25, the sculpture is 17” high and 28” long (43 cm x 71 cm) as shown. I have a strong suspicion that this originally came with a wood plinth (base) which has since gone missing.
Serengeti Morn I, the walking male, is 14″ (35.5 cm) high and sold for $3150 in 1987.
Serengeti Morn II, the reclining female, is 9″ h x 16″ w (about 23cm x 41 cm); she was priced at $2750 in 1987.
Duma, Duma had an issue price of $2950 and measures 12.5″ (31.75 cm) high by 20″ (51 cm) wide. “Duma” is the Swahili word for the cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus.
Although the Serengeti I and II studies were sold separately, this photograph in the 1986 Connoisseur of Malvern catalog shows them together on a single cherry wood base.
Unfortunately the only information I currently have about this circa-1980s Jaguar is the photo, the name and a height dimension of 11″ (28 cm). This was a limited edition designed by Richard Roberts; the only feline in this post not created by Ashenden!
Several domestic cats were also created. The two above were both open editions. The white kitten is Snowflake and the calico is Whisky, both approximately 8” (20.25 cm) tall. Snowflake appeared in 1984 and retailed for $295 in 1987. Whisky’s issue year is 1985; she sold for $395 in 1987, the higher price reflecting the additional paintwork compared to Snowflake.
This intriguing and marvelously realistic study of a mother cat and kitten is called Queen of Siam. This was a limited edition of 50 in 1987; it is 13.5” high x 12.5” wide x 17” deep (34.3 cm x 31.75 cm x 43 cm).
Another Siamese kitten is Innocence who is 9″ (23 cm) tall and was a limited edition of 100 in 1987. The example in the photo is missing two of the three gentian flowers that should be in the frontmost (closest to the camera) section of the base. The detail photo is of another piece which has a slightly different coloration (yellow highlights.) The amount of yellow shading depended upon which artist painted the piece; some did not use it at all.
The same Siamese kitten was also available, sans flowers, as the open edition Blue Eyes. This was also a 1987 issue and measures 9″ (23cm) high and wide.
A 2020 auction sale in the UK included all of the Connoisseur Siamese cats. On the top shelf is Queen of Siam, the middle shelf holds Innocence, and the botom shelf has Blue Eyes along with the same kitten seen in Queen of Siam but as a separate sculpture. Like Blue Eyes, it probably was 1987 open edition although I do not know its name.
Additional studies by Christopher Ashenden can be found in the Connoisseur Animal Studies archive category.
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