The original Connoisseur of Malvern studio existed for almost 20 years, starting in 1979 and operating under the ownership and direction of Diane Lewis and her husband Terry. The design and craftsmanship of the studies produced under the Lewis family aegis propelled the studio to the top of the art porcelain world during those decades. Because the studio changed ownership and design focus after it was sold to an American buyer in the late 1990s, collectors of Connoisseur of Malvern may well wish to differentiate between the original-studio and post-studio-sale studies.
Unfortunately this is not as easy as it might seem, because the sale of the company included not only the brand name “Connoisseur” and its butterfly logo but also its copyrighted designs from past decades. The new owners of the studio utilized a number of the 1980s design molds for “new” retail editions done in different colorways and with different sculpture names. A few of the molds were even used later for the production of resin figurines by offshore manufacturers; some of these are shown in Resin Copies of Connoisseur Porcelain.
Collectors of art porcelain are always aware that studios sometimes produced alternate (additional) colorways of a sculpture, and Connoisseur of Malvern did indeed do that occasionally. For example, the Azalea Blossom was available in three colorways (red, yellow or white); the limited and open edition Poinsettia studies could be had in either red, pink or white; and there was a pink version of Hydrangea ‘Blue Wave.’
There was even an alternate version of the American Robin with Oak: male and female, as shown above. However, the alternate colorways were always offered concurrently (at the same time) instead of in succession. The problem for collectors is that some post-studio-sale alternate colorways appeared in the decade after the completion of the original. This potential confusion is compounded by the fact that these post-sale pieces often have one of the original studio’s logo designs in the backstamp.
This is the original Connoisseur of Malvern 1985 study Windborn of an Arab mare and foal. It was an edition of 100 which was completed before the studio’s change of ownership.
This is a post-studio-sale piece entitled “Flight and Fancy”. It was sold in June 2007 by a USA auction house as part of a large collection of mixed original-studio and post-sale pieces. No photograph of the backstamp was provided by the auctioneer but it was described as being a “Connoisseur Bisque Figure” and “#2 of 50 limited edition”. The original studio never produced this study in this colorway, but unless a buyer was aware of that fact they would not know that this was a later re-issue of the original 1980s design.
A similar situation exists with the Arab foal Freedom which was issued by the original studio at the same time as Windborn which it is taken from. This was an edition of 100 on a cherry base as shown. Unfortunately the post-sale studio subsequently created three different colorways of this piece (a pinto, a dark chestnut with blaze, and a bay with black points), gave their piece the same name (“Freedom”) and sold it in an edition of 250 each. None of the post-sale-studio pieces came with a base (as far as I know) but that alone is not indicative because I’ve seen a few actual 1980s Freedom foals for sale with their base missing. Such a re-use of the original sculpture’s name makes things even murkier.
Obviously there needs to be a way to distinguish original-studio Connoisseur of Malvern studies from post-sale pieces …..for chronology alone, if nothing else. This Archive site concerns itself with original-studio pieces only; other than the “Flight and Fancy” piece shown here for comparison purposes, all images are of confirmed original-studio pieces designed and produced under the auspices of Diane Lewis.
The only foolproof way to identify an original-studio piece is via a complete backstamp; one cannot rely on the name/logo alone. Obviously if the backstamp says “Connoisseur of Malvern” it was made by the original studio but what if it is the shortened version of the name: “Connoisseur”?
This is an example of a limited edition original-studio backstamp. It contains the single-word name, the butterfly logo, the sculpture number, the designer’s name, and the icons of the artists who actually created that individual piece. It also shows the year of issue.
Here’s an open edition backstamp. Sometimes the sculpture name was stamped and sometimes it was handwritten, as this one was. The stamp still has the issue year and the artist icons; the circled letter indicates the year in which the actual piece was made; some stamps include this and some do not.
This is how the original studio typically marked their artist’s proofs, with an AP where the production sculpture number would otherwise go. There appear to be no artist icons on this piece (not unusual for an AP) but the designer’s name — C(hris) Ashenden – is there.
There can be differences in stamps even among the same issue. Both of these Blue Tit with Young pieces are original-studio despite the differences in their formats. The second one is also definitely original-studio even though it doesn’t include the year, the designer name, or the butterfly logo (an inadvertent error, I am sure!)
This stamp is on a ‘Thisledown Collection’ whimsical mice piece. It has no designer name or artist icons but it does have an issue year that dates it as an original-studio item.
This piece has no issue year but it does have the designer’s name and a circled production year code.
It’s important to remember that none of the post-studio-sale pieces will have individual artist icons. That is one reason why seeing the backstamp is so vital when considering a piece being offered for sale online. One cannot rely on only a written description, because the seller may be assuming (especially if comparing a 1990s or 2000s alternate colorway to a photo of its original 1980s piece) that “Connoisseur” on its backstamp means “Connoisseur of Malvern.” Let’s take a look at several post-sale-studio backstamps.
These are the only marks on a “Roy Rogers” equestrian figure. No year, no designer name, and no artist icons.
This stamp is on a lion colorway that was not produced by the original studio.
This was definitely not an original studio piece (verified by photo identification). In addition to the absence of any artist icons, the “fine bone china” and “Made in England” stamps are different from those used by the original studio; they are in script, and “fine bone china” is not capitalized.
Also, notice the position of the butterfly at the corner rather than centered over the name. This can be confusing to those who have seen the catalog or advertising literature published by the original studio, because they did indeed use that format during the 1980s… but it was for print publication items only. I have never yet seen an original-studio porcelain item bearing this corner-butterfly backstamp.
This backstamp is a bit of a challenge because it’s on an open edition (supposedly called “Christmas Rose” despite the lack of any name on the piece) and although it has no designer name, icons, or issue year it does have the same block-lettering Fine Bone China and Made in England stamps seen on all the original pieces… thus making it look familiar. Nevertheless I’d tend to classify this as not from the original studio, especially in view of the sloppy application of the stamps having left a row of black marks that shouldn’t be there.
Here are the stamps on two different Gyrfalcons; first, an original-studio piece and then another that has no marks other than what is shown in the photo. The stamp impression border marks also seem odd.
Here’s another comparison of the marks on an original-studio piece versus the later reissue/copy that was issued by the subsequent owners. The sculpture is the male lion Simba seen in the Cats post (although without its original wood base.) The post-sale reissue was done in the same colorway as the original.
The backstamp on the left is from an original Diane Lewis studio piece and includes all of their usual marks: the edition size and sculpture number, the designer’s name, the design issue year of 1986, the sculpture creation year lettercode, and the icons of all the artists who worked on that piece. On the right is the backstamp on a Simba made during the 1990s or early 2000s under the auspices of the American-owned studio.
(See Pseudo-Connoisseur Backstamps for illustrations of the early-2000s marks that were used by the post-sale studio on some of their other porcelain and resin retail items marketed under the Connoisseur branding.)
The best method of distinguishing original-studio Connoisseur pieces from the ones produced in the post-Diane Lewis era is a familiarity with the backstamp formats. If you are a collector who wishes to focus only on the studies produced by the original Lewis studio, this knowledge is absolutely critical.
Images of Connoisseur of Malvern porcelain sculptures herein are provided for informational and educational purposes only, not for reproduction, resale or advertising. All photographs are copyrighted by their owner as indicated via watermark. Photographs with a Connoisseur watermark originally appeared within their copyrighted publications and appear here via the kind permission of Connoisseur of Malvern, Ltd.