Connoisseur of Malvern produced some amazing cattleya orchid sculptures. Typically they were limited editions but in most cases a corresponding open-edition single-bloom study was created as well. Because the name of both sculptures was the same except for one word, it can be a little confusing when trying to determine which sculpture is meant… especially since the single bloom cattleyas are all based on the same design. But there is a second, and more concerning, source of confusion as well.
Cattleya Bow Bells is a tribute to one of the true classics of orchid breeding. It was first introduced to the world in 1945 at an American Orchid Society meeting but the cross was developed by the British orchid firm Black & Flory. They named it ‘Bow Bells’ after the bells of the St. Mary-le-Bow church in London. The interesting story of this famous orchid can be found here.
This photo gives a great view of the structure of the sculpture. It is 5” high, 7” long and about 5.75” wide (12.75 cm x 17.75 cm x 14.5 cm). However, I have not yet located a photo of a corresponding limited edition Bow Bells group.
Purple Moon (single) was introduced in 1989 and had a USA retail price of $450. Note that the name specifies (single) to distinguish it from the larger limited edition sculpture which appears in Flowers Part Four. I did a quick search for the actual hybrid ‘Purple Moon’ on the RHS/Sanders’ List site but oddly, the only result was a dendrobium…. nothing for a Cattleya ‘Purple Moon’. The backstamp above identifies this as an authentic original Connoisseur of Malvern study; Bow Bells is also legitimate, and appears in several Connoisseur advertising publications of the era. The importance of the backstamp will be explained below.
These two studies, offered for sale at auction without a photo of the backstamp, were described as being “Connoisseur bisque porcelain” and they certainly are cast from the same mold as Bow Bells and Purple Moon shown above. However, there without seeing the backstamp there is no proof that these were produced by the original Connoisseur of Malvern studio and not by the persons that acquired the Connoisseur molds after the actual studio closed. The odds are that these two orchids were not actually produced by Connoisseur of Malvern.
This was specifically identified as “Tropical Dawn” by the auction house but without supplying a photo of the actual backstamp. The true Connoisseur of Malvern studio did indeed produce a study called Tropical Dawn but that is a limited edition showing numerous blooms and dates from the 1980s. It is unfortunate, and extremely confusing, that the acquirers of the molds and rights to use a version of the Connoisseur name and logo decided to give their reproductions the same name as the original Malvern pieces in many instances (the Arab foal ‘Freedom’ being another notable example.)
Because of the existence of these later, non-original versions of the Bow Bells study, it is critical to make sure that the backstamp matches the format shown above for the Purple Moon single in order to know whether or not it was actually made by the original studio.
(Orchid aficionados might also enjoy Connoisseur’s other orchids that were incorporated into several of the Floral and Bird category sculptures.)
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