As shown in Pseudo-Connoisseur Backstamps, items bearing an altered version of the original Connoisseur logo began appearing on the market in the early 2000s. Sold by an American company named “Connoisseur Inc.”, some of them were made in England and others were made in China. Although they were all marked ‘Connoisseur’ and included the butterfly logo, those pieces should not be confused with those created by the original Connoisseur of Malvern studio (see Identifying Original-Studio Connoisseur for details.)
In addition to the ceramic items, resin reproductions cast from the original Connoisseur of Malvern molds were also produced by two very different companies during this same time period. Neither of those had the Connoisseur name on them; one company was unremarkable but the other was rather more well-known! Let’s look at the “obscure” company first.
This company was owned by the American purchasers of the original Connoisseur name and molds in the late 1990s. As shown below, they used the original Connoisseur of Malvern molds to produce made-in-China resin copies of the original bone porcelain sculptures. These items were marketed under the name of RNR Gifts. Like its sister company (Connoisseur, Inc.) it was first registered in Florida and existed as a corporation from mid-2005 to late 2008 in that state, although it also later operated in the same neighboring state as the owners’ residence.
RNR Gifts outsourced all their production and had various theme collections such as birds, historical characters, fairies and so on; for example, there was a ceramic series depicting the wives of Henry VIII. Most of the items, however, seem to have been made of resin and all of them – like the Connoisseur-branded licensed cartoon character items described in Pseudo-Backstamps – are marked as Made in China.
When reproducing the Connoisseur of Malvern pieces, RNR kept the original sculpture’s name the same or very nearly so. For instance, the resin copy shown below was cast from the mold for the 1981 Fledgling Wrens with Bramble sculpted by Christopher Ashenden, which had been issued as a limited edition of 100 in fine bone porcelain produced in the Malvern studio.
Another example discovered was a copy of the beautiful cardinal study Crimson Spring. Shown above is the authentic Connoisseur of Malvern sculpture which, like the Wrens, also dates from 1981.
Here is the the RNR Gifts copy of the original piece. The seller of this example describes it as being named Crimson Spring, made of resin and part of a numbered limited edition of 800 pieces. Its dimensions are the same as the original Connoisseur piece, of course, because the copies were cast from the original mold. In this case RNR kept the original name fully intact.
A third resin-copy example, although without an accompanying photo, was sold on the Goodwill site early this year for $14. It was described as “RNR Gifts Long Tail Tits Figurine”. Of course this would have been a copy of the very limited edition (only 75) Connoisseur piece shown below, which was named Long Tailed Tits with Young.
It’s impossible to know which, or how many more, of the original Connoisseur of Malvern sculptures were reproduced as resin knockoffs by RNR. Theoretically it shouldn’t matter, because even if someone were to do a Google search for, say, “Connoisseur fledgling wrens” and come up with the RNR item as one of the results, they would notice immediately that the brand name is RNR instead of Connoisseur and thus despite the seeming identical physical appearance of the item they would simply disregard it. True?
Well….perhaps not always. The image above is from a (sold) listing by a large midwest auction house. It comes up as a result in a search for “porcelain fledgling wrens” on liveauctioneers.com because the auctioneer titled the item as “Porcelain figure ‘Fledgling Wrens’”. The description then reads Cold cast porcelain figure ‘Fledgling Wrens’, H8” W5” . Only the one photo is shown, and of course there’s the very misleading “cold cast porcelain” description… a ridiculous and unfortunate advertising euphemism for resin to which some porcelain dust has been added. The resulting material is not a ceramic, despite the implication. In my opinion the term “cold cast porcelain” should never be used by any responsible seller. What’s surprising about this example is that although this is clearly an RNR Gifts item, that fact was not mentioned in the description (nor was a backstamp photo included).
Although these are the only three resin reproductions that I have found so far with the RNR label, it’s possible that there were more. And now we come to the other company producing such items, which was
Boehm at Home
Despite the well-known Boehm name, these pieces were not products of the Trenton studio. To condense a very long tale into a much shorter format: In 2003, Helen Boehm sold the faltering Boehm company to Home Interiors & Gifts, a Texas-based manufacturer/seller of mass market decorative items. A subsidiary was formed and named “EM Boehm, Inc” who in turn launched a line of offshore-manufactured items under the branding of Boehm at Home.
By means which I am still in the process of investigating, some of the original Connoisseur of Malvern molds went from the hands of the American purchasers of that studio (Connoisseur Inc./RNR Gifts) to that of Helen Boehm. The circumstances of the transfer appear to be rather, shall we say, “murky.”
Four Boehm at Home reproductions of original Connoisseur of Malvern studies are known; three are shown below. The fourth is an even more complicated case which will be examined on its own in a future post. Just like RNR, the Boehm and Home items also copied the original Connoisseur sculpture’s name.
This is Boehm at Home’s reproduction ‘Hydrangea Blue Wave’ which is 6.5″ tall not including the 1″ thick stand. Two sellers stated that some of the flowers “are on wires which makes them moveable”…a rather odd feature! Although usually described as “porcelain” these are resin (the so-called “cold cast porcelain” bugaboo again) and you can see in the closeup photo of the flowers how the florets were simply cast from a mold rather than hand-formed as in the actual porcelain originals. I see no evidence of “wires” in this photo, however.
The stamp is legally correct in stating that these pieces were “made exclusively for” Home Interiors, the word “made” clearly intended to mean “manufactured” rather than “designed!”
This is the actual Connoisseur of Malvern Hydrangea ‘Blue Wave’ for comparison.
Turning to the animal kingdom we have Boehm at Home’s copy of Chris Ashenden’s magnificent cheetah, again sold by the mass marketer as ‘Duma Duma’. Sellers cited the size as 12.5″ long and 7.5″ high, which seems rather small. It retailed for $129.99 while in production. Again, resin masquerading as “porcelain” in advertisements.
The original Connoisseur Duma Duma for comparison. The reproduction’s mold had to alter the position of the leg pieces in order to allow for production in the cheaper method. Because the legs, tail, etc are all separate molds this would not be very hard to do.
And lastly we have our old friend ‘Crimson Spring’ but this time in the Boehm at Home version which is variously described as either 8″ or 9″ high including the wood stand. Notice that these were made in China rather than Malaysia, and the copyright (ha!) date of 2005.
The other Boehm at Home bird and/or flower pieces from the same era do not seem to have been from Connoisseur original molds, at least not when compared to studies currently in the archive. However, that may change as the Archive database grows! The other known B-at-H pieces were a nightingale, a purple finch, a hummingbird (not a match for either of the Connoisseur hummer studies), a magnolia and a stag. I would not be surprised if some or all of those pieces also turn out to be reproductions of designs created by former porcelain studios decades earlier.
The Boehm at Home line lasted no more than five years at most, because the division was sold by Home Interiors to another company in 2008 where it apparantly died a silent death.
The story of the fourth Boehm at Home/Connoisseur reproduction will be told in a separate post.
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.