Several years before Connoisseur of Malvern produced their Carl Barks ducks for Another Rainbow, they created several pieces for the Walt Disney Company based on some of their iconic animated movies. One of these was the 1951 film Alice in Wonderland.
The Connoisseur piece, titled Alice in Wonderland ‘All in a Golden Afternoon’ was created as edition of 25, ten of which were brought to the September 1993 Disneyana Convention in Los Angeles. A contemporary article in the Los Angeles Times mentioned that “Martyn Lewis was representing the [sic] Connoisseur of Malvern, a British company that was selling the most expensive limited edition pieces–10 handmade porcelain sculptures of Alice in a Wonderland scene.” The mention was not accompanied by a photo and so I had no idea what this piece looked like until early this year (2021) when a very helpful reader sent me photographs of an example he finally managed to acquire. I am extremely grateful to him for sharing them so that I can document this sculpture in the Archive!
I have never seen another of these offered for sale online. The person who sold this one to the current owner mentioned that they’d heard through the grapevine that some of the remaining 15 pieces may have gotten damaged in transit from the UK to the USA. However, the studio did not typically create an entire edition at once (at the beginning) but would produce them over time as retailers in the UK, USA, and elsewhere would submit orders. On the other hand, the Disney pieces were not intended to be sold through standard retailer channels, and thus Connoisseur may have produced most or even all of the 25 in advance of their introduction at the Convention.
Although the movie and the sculpture were titled “Alice in Wonderland”, the scene depicted by both actually occurs in the second Lewis Carroll book which is titled Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There; but more about that in a moment.
Connoisseur’s study reflects the movie scene in which Alice, in the process of chasing the White Rabbit, enters a flower garden where she meets various flowers that speak (and subsequently sing) to her.
The studio was careful to represent some of the most recognizable flowers from the movie: the large purple iris, the pansies, and the tulips.
They also added a bread-and-butter-fly which appeared in a different section of Carroll’s book. The chapter title is ‘Looking-Glass Insects’, about which a Gnat is instructing Alice:
Crawling at your feet,” said the Gnat…“you may observe a Bread-and-butter-fly. Its wings are thin slices of bread-and-butter, its body is a crust, and its head is a lump of sugar.”
“And what does it live on?”
“Weak tea with cream in it.”
A new difficulty came into Alice’s head. “Supposing it couldn’t find any?” she suggested.
“Then it would die, of course.”
“But that must happen very often,” Alice remarked thoughtfully.
“It always happens,” said the Gnat.
John Tenniel’s original illustration of the Bread-and-butter-fly.
The “BBF” as seen in the Disney movie.
And speaking of lyrics and titles….
The “golden afternoon” reference comes from the poem that introduces the first Alice book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It appears directly before the dedication page which precedes the first page of text. The poem itself, which is untitled in the book, begins
Notice that the phrase is “All in the golden afternoon” which is also what lyricist Bob Hilliard used in the Disney movie’s song:
Little bread-and-butterflies kiss the tulips
And the sun is like a toy balloon
There are get up in the morning glories
In the golden afternoon
There are dizzy daffodils on the hillside
Strings of violets are all in tune
Tiger lilies love the dandy lions
In the golden afternoon
There are dog and cat-erpillars and the copper cent-ipede
Where the lazy daisies love the very peaceful life they lead…
You can learn a lot of things from the flowers
For especially in the month of June
There’s a wealth of happiness and romance
All in the golden afternoon
However, the plaque on the Connoisseur piece has a tiny difference in the wording:
Here, “the” has been replaced by “a”. There’s no way to know whether this slight alteration was intentional or accidental but it’s a tiny bit of trivia to tuck away about this particular piece!
The backstamp on the underside of this piece does not include a title, so we cannot answer the question that way. The artist icons do tell us who created this piece, however. The molds were made by Stephen Dalley (wagon wheel icon.) Unfortunately, the identity of the caster (H icon) is unknown at present. The next two icons indicate that the flowers were made by Diane Lewis (flower icon) and the final icon – which usually indicates the painter – belongs to Jane Collins. Jane is normally listed in the ‘flower maker’ position but obviously was equally adept at painting! So now we know who created these particular charming pansy-faces. 🙂
Also added to this piece’s backstamp, although upside-down in this orientation, is an autograph by Diane Lewis and also © Disney in her handwriting.
Connoisseur obviously had to choose which flowers to represent on their sculpture. In Carroll’s book, Alice first meets the Tiger-lily and the Rose. Soon a Daisy and a Violet join the conversation, but those are the only four flowers that the author mentions. Of those, Connoisseur’s piece includes three purple violets.
The Disney movie significantly expanded their garden’s population. In addition to the rose and daisy, there are the crowds of pansies, sweet peas, bellflowers, and the aforementioned tiger lily and a dandelion in cameo roles, as well as a calla lily. The most noticeable (size-wise) plants in the movie are an aristocratic iris, the red rose, and a daisy. Bread-and-butterflies can be seen, as well as a rocking-horse fly which is also described in the book:
Halfway up the bush, you’ll see a Rocking-horse-fly, if you look. It’s made entirely of wood, and gets about by swinging itself from branch to branch.”
“What does it live on?” asked Alice, with great curiosity.
“Sap and sawdust”, said the Gnat.
The original Tenniel illustration in the book is quite charming and delicate.
To their credit, the Disney animators were a little more faithful to the original drawing for this insect than they were re: the bread-and-butter-fly. It would have been interesting to see what Connoisseur might have done with it, but to include something like this would have made already fragile piece almost heart-stoppingly so!
I do not know whether Connoisseur of Malvern produced any other Alice in Wonderland pieces. At another time they definitely created an item based on Sleeping Beauty, and two items based on Beauty and the Beast; I have only found a photo of one of them but I continue to live in hope! When I do manage to obtain more than the most bare-bones information about any of those, new posts will be added to the Archive.
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.