In 1990 the Connoisseur studio did a special series of porcelain sculptures for the benefit of the Rainforest Foundation which was founded the previous year. Included in the series were two limited edition flower studies and four open-edition tropical frogs. There may have been additional pieces in the series for which documentation is not currently available.
Forest Chorus is a cattleya orchid group by Diane Lewis, issued in an edition of 50. The backstamp, like all pieces in this special series, also includes the Rainforest Foundation’s name and logo. This piece is approximately 16″ (40.6 cm) high. Cattleyas, being epiphytic plants, grow on tree trunks and limbs just as they are depicted here.
Silent Verse is shorter in stature, being about 8″ (20.25 cm) high. This edition of 100 was designed by W. Green. Because of the design of this study, there are two backstamp areas: The full Connoisseur of Malvern logo appears on the underside of the frontmost leaf while the Rainforest name and logo are shown on the leaf adjacent. (The example in the photograph is missing a small section of the top left flower.)
Unfortunately I only have a photo of one of the frogs although I do have detailed descriptions; if anyone happens to have any of the others and would be kind enough to send a photo, there is a direct-contact form on the About the Archive page.
The Poison Dart Frog, like all of the frogs in this series, was sculpted by Christopher Ashenden; it measures 1.5” high and 6” long. (3.8cm x 15.25cm) The species is the appropriately-named “blue jeans” variant of Oomphaga pumilio, the Strawberry Poison Dart Frog, which is only about 1” (2.5 cm) in life. There are many species of poison dart frogs but in all of them the toxin is contained in the skin. The “dart” in the common name refers to the practice by some indigenous tribes of coating their hunting darts (or arrows, which is why these are sometimes also called poison-arrow frogs) with these frogs’ secretions. Like monarch butterflies which are also brilliantly colored and toxic, their gorgeous colors and patterns serve as a warning to predators to “think twice before eating me!” But among the 100+ species of poison dart frogs, only two or three are deadly to humans; in fact, some — like this species — are quite prized as pets.
Another frog study, the Golden Toad, is just over 1” tall and about 5” long. (2.5 cm x 12.5cm) It is similar in design to the Poison Dart Frog, with the toad poised on a leaf. The Monteverde Golden Toad (Incilius periglenes) once inhabited the area around the Costa Rican town of the same name, but is now presumed extinct; the last one was sighted there in May 1989 and none have been found since. These toads were quite tiny, being barely 2” long and so it appears that the Connoisseur frog itself is probably life-sized due to the inclusion of leaves in the sculpture.
Connoisseur’s Red Eyed Tree Frog depicts a familiar species widely distributed across Mexico, Central America and South America. The sculpture is 1.25” high (3.8cm) and also shows a frog and foliage but with a difference: Rather than posing it on a single large leaf, Chris Ashenden sculpted it poised on a stem between two small ones. This unusual pose – rather like someone using water-wings! – gives a strong sense of imminent motion. In the wild these frogs (Agalychnis callidryas) are nocturnal and eat moths, crickets and flies. They have evolved a special survival technique called “startle coloration”: If disturbed, they instantly flash their huge red eyes and display their large vivid orange feet. This unexpected burst of color from a seemingly-innocuous green frog often surprises a predator so much that they pause for just the tiniest moment that may allow the frog to jump to safety.
There was also a fourth frog in the series, judging by an archived eBay listing from September 2010 described only as being “four assorted china frogs by Connoisseur of Malvern, 4cm high and descending”. The word ‘assorted’ clearly indicates that all four frogs were different, and thus there was at least one more frog than the three listed above. Again, if anyone has photos of the frogs they would be a great addition to this post and to the Archive.
I’m also not discounting the possibility that there may have been an open-edition flower study as well, of which I’m unaware. On the other hand the frogs alone may have served the same purpose of having both limited- and nonlimited edition sculptures in this series. I did contact the Rainforest Foundation (UK) to inquire if they still had any promotional literature for this series but sadly, having been 27 years ago, they are no longer available.
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.