One trend that is noticeable when reviewing the circa-1980s Boehm of Malvern designs is a growing tendency to depict human figures, but the classic Boehm staples of birds and flowers continued to dominate their production.
Another post-1980 tendency is to see a mixture of production venues (Malvern vs. Trenton) within the same design. During the 1970s all the Malvern designs were made in Malvern and bore the Malvern studio logo (horse/crown) and Made in England in the backstamp. However, beginning in the early 1980s we begin to see Made in USA on some sculptures and Made in England on others, paired with either the Malvern or the Trenton (horse/feather) logo in different combinations. This starts to become a regular feature amongst the 101-xx design number pieces which are mostly from 1985 onward.
Post-1980 Design Number Codes
Yet another 1980s Malvern change is in the assignment of design numbers. During the 1970s and early 1980s the 100-xx design codes were reserved for limited edition birds only, but starting with 100-55 it became a mixture of birds and animals and continued that way through the 101-xx series as well. The design number ranges for the open (non-limited) editions had always been mixed subjects, even in the 1970s and that did not change.
One sees introduction years cited less often in 1980s backstamps and sometimes they even inexplicably “duel” with each other. For example, a female giraffe with young, design #100-56, was definitely issued in 1985 (it even spawned a bronze copy by Boehm’s Llandow metal foundry) but also shows ©1989 in the backstamp as well as the introduction year!
Given the lack of introduction years in backstamps, especially on the non-limited pieces, one can nevertheless roughly date a Malvern piece if its design number is shown instead (many of the mid to late 1980s pieces don’t even include that, however.)
The post-1980 limited-edition design number ranges are 100-29 through 100-99; all 101-xx pieces (all mid-1980s onward); all 102-xx pieces (ditto); all 103-xx pieces (mid to late 1980s); all 104-xx pieces (late 1980s); 300-34 through 300-99 (early 1980s); 301-01 through at least 301-30 (early 1980s onward; it’s not known if this range went all the way to the end); and 500-14 to 500-26 (early-mid 1980s; all were animals.)
The nonlimited edition design numbers run as follows: 200-67 through 200-99 (early-mid 1980s); 201-01 through at least 201-51 (late 1980s); 202-xx (mid to late 1980s); 203-xx (mid to late 1980s); 204-xx (late 1980s-1990); 205-xx (1989).
Oddly, I have found no Malvern design code ranges after the 205-xx series; they suddenly “jump” to 230-xx of which some were assigned to the “In The Round” animal pieces. I’ve seen no pieces marked 240-xx but the 250-xx series are all flowers… and all undated in their backstamps. The 260-xx series are mostly (all?) flowers as well, and at least some date from 1989. Anything with a design code starting with 6 incorporates a bronze element (see my Boehm of Llandow post for a discussion of those) and thus dates from 1983 to the late 1980s.
Malvern Birds, 1982 – 1991
Many of the 1980 and some of the 1981 bird introductions are designs that originated during the “Lewis era”, and so this bird retrospective will begin in 1982.
The male Bushtit with Wallflower (design #100-39) is one of a pair that were nevertheless sold separately. He is 7″ high x 5.5” wide and dates from 1982. Although I have not been able to find a photograph of the companion female bird, her design number was 100-38.
The Peregrine Falcon from 1984 must have been quite a challenge to pack for shipment. Dimensions are approximately 20.5 height x 28″ width (52cm x 71cm). Obviously a limited edition, this was design #100-50.
Next we have two depictions of the Snowy Owl: one limited and one not. Both were introduced in 1985.
The limited edition Snowy Owl is design #100-62 and is an impressive 39″high, 19” wide, and 18” deep. Another packing-department nightmare, no doubt!
The eight-design open-edition collection titled American Owls of course included a Snowy Owl, seen here second from left in the back row. The series was produced in 1985 and 1986. Notice that the backstamp for these owls says Made in England but the logo is the USA version (with feather.) Design numbers for this range are #200-72 through #200-79. Unlike at least one 1980s Boehm flower series, these owls were not a Hamilton Collection range (although Hamilton had sold a series of Boehm owl plates five years previously.)
Back to the limited editions with Ruby Topaz Hummingbirds with Laelia Orchids from 1986. This piece is 11″ h x 13″ w and is design #101-73. It is one of five known hummingbird designs from the Malvern studio.
The non-limited Wren with Snowdrops is from the same mid-1980s timeframe (probably also 1986) and is 7” high.
The open edition Tree Sparrow from 1989 is design #202-44. It is entirely different from (and in my opinion far more attractive than) the circa-1960s Trenton studio piece of the same name.
Jumping a bit ahead to the next decade, we see the Cactus Wren with Prickly Pear appear in 1990. This limited edition is 12” high and 7” wide, and shows a nice attention to detail with the cactus spines. Sadly this example has one cactus flower broken off. (Design #104-33)
Decidedly less prickly is this white dove which has quite an interesting design history! This is the first piece that I have discovered (thanks to a helpful reader!) to not only have undergone two name changes but also ‘migrated’ across The Pond from Malvern to Trenton in so doing. It had three iterations during a five-year period but kept the same design number (202-46.) It appeared as a Malvern piece titled simply Dove in 1990 and is 11.5” high.
In 1991 the exact same piece was retitled (in the backstamp) Wedding Dove. Even though nothing about the design has changed, the backstamp shows a “new” copyright year of 1991.
Either when or shortly before the Malvern studio closed, production of this piece was shifted to the Trenton studio… whereupon it was renamed Peace Dove with an entirely new backstamp format and again a different copyright year… 1994 this time. With this iteration it officially became a “Trenton piece” rather than a Malvern one, and joined the fairly large flock of doves that the New Jersey studio produced during its operating history. I would be interested to learn whether the Trenton pieces are slightly heavier than their British counterparts, which would indicate a materials shift from bone porcelain to the typical Trenton hardpaste formula.
At least some of the 1991 production had a pretty variation with pink flowers added to the base. These bear the same backstamp as the standard version except for the letter A added by hand to the end of the design number.
The colorful Waxwing dates from 1991, is about 10” high and part of an edition of 200. (Design #101-97) The stamp shown above (not the one on the bird pictured) is unusual because I have not seen that particular bottom-line (“Limited Edition No. ___ of 200”) backstamp decal before. Notice also that the space normally occupied by the sculpture number is blank, and the copyright year is obscured or missing. It has the Malvern logo but does not say Made in England. My guess is that this bird got caught in the Malvern shutdown and may have been wholly or partly made in Trenton. Even so, that bottom line is atypical.
This charming group of Semi-Palmated Plovers, also from 1991, originally included an accompanying wood base. Its design number (102-01) marks it as a limited edition. Quite tall at 17” high, it is about 8” x 11” wide and deep.
I will end this abbreviated 1980s-birds overview with a mystery sculpture which was definitely a Malvern piece and a limited edition BUT has no indication whatsover of chronology. I have a hunch that it dates from the late 70s or very early 80s – from the workmanship as well as the sparse backstamp – but have learned it’s never wise to assume! It is just about 11” high and seems to show a male Ruby-throated hummingbird amongst forsythia and crocus…. except that the butterfly depicted is the Peacock which is a British species rarely encountered in the USA. On the other hand, the UK does not have hummingbirds (although it does have a “hummingbird” moth)! So if this really was meant to pair a hummingbird and a Peacock butterfly, it’s a depiction more of imagination than reality. It’s also rare to see a hummer depicted perched rather than in flight, as all of Boehm’s other hummingbird studies were.
Malvern Flowers, 1980-1990
Before embarking on a short stroll through the Malvern studio’s post-1980 ‘flower garden’ I would like to say a word about the Roses of the Rainbow pieces. There were two Boehm open edition series titled “Roses of the Rainbow”. The original series was made at the Malvern studio in either 1978 or 1979 and were assigned design #200-55 followed by a letter designating the colorway. There is no year on those backstamps, so I assigned them to 1978 and included them in my post covering the 1970s Malvern flowers. The second Roses of the Rainbow series, utilizing the same molds and the same flower names, was later produced by the New Jersey studio during the 1990s; those pieces were all given design #F485 and will be shown in a future post covering the Trenton studio’s work.
Let’s begin with three 1980 introductions, some of which may (or may not) have been designed during the late 1970s but not released until the next decade. All are limited editions, this being Peach Rose with Daisies (design #300-38) at a bit more than 15” tall.
The Roy Hartley Begonia, design #300-41. Boehm produced several begonia studies; this one is 11” high and almost 13” wide.
The same Iris mold was used for three different colorways of a 1980 iris, each given a different name but the same design number with a varying letter suffix. Shown above is the Miss Indiana Iris, designated as 300-49B (for blue). There was also a pink 300-49P version named Caprice (some pieces simply say 300-49 without a P) and a 300-49Y in yellow named the Helen Bohem Iris. This 1980 mold differs from the original circa-1978 Helen Boehm Iris (design number 300-19) only in the position of the leaf and bud.
1981 saw the first of two Boehm combinations of a flower and a sea shell. TheYellow Rose in Oyster Shell is 6.5″ high, 6″ wide, and 5” deep. This is design #300-59. The next in sequence, #300-60, is supposedly a Tropicana Rose in Conch Shell but I have been unable to locate a photo of it. These two are, in my opinion, much nicer than the other “flower in shell” series that came later. Both were limited editions but their edition size is not known.
Boehm’s “Rare Wild Flower Collection” was issued in cooperation with the World Wildlife Fund in 1982. There were six designs produced as an edition of 2500 per design. They are all between 5” and 6” high and are not individually numbered. Some of the backstamps include the WWF panda logo but some do not. The known flowers in this series are the Lady Slipper Orchid (photo; design #26001), Fritillaria, Cheddar Pink (center in ad), Red Helleborine (at far left in ad), Purple Spring Gentian (at right in ad), and Diapensia (design #26006.)
These vibrant red Tulips are from 1982 and are about 8” high. The design number #300-98 indicates a limited edition.
1984 saw the impressive Cymbidium Orchid Centerpiece (note the American spelling of “centerpiece” – rather than the British “centrepiece” – in the baclstamp). This was design #301-15 and stands approximately 19” high. The orchid hybrids shown are, from top to bottom in the design, Cymbidium Rincon ‘Clarisse’ (white), Cymbidium Rievaulx ‘Cooksbridge’ (pink), and Cymbidium Stanley Fouraker x Highlander (purple) as per the backstamp.
A second centerpiece made its appearance in 1986: the Icaria Peony Centrepiece (yes, with proper British spelling this time!) which is only 8” high but 20” long. Its design number is 301-19.
I am an absolute sucker for this shade of blue and if I were ever to buy a late-1980s Malvern piece this Delphinium would probably be it because of the color. Based on its design number (103-93) the likely introduction year was 1988. Eleven inches tall and 6” wide, this was an edition of unknown size. It is likely that the stem and leaf petioles are porcelain-coated metal, produced at the Llandow foundry.
Some other late-1980s flower pieces, such as these open editions Cowslip (260-18) and Bluebell (260-17), include similar thin stems and petioles with a silver core.
Both of these small (5” to 6” high) open edition woodland flowers are from 1989 and possibly were part of a series. The Hawthorn is design #205-09 and the Wood Anemone is #205-12. These are the only two designs I have found to date with a 205-xx design number and I wouldn’t be surprised if the 205 numbers were only used for a dedicated series similar to the “Rare Wildflowers.”
The limited edition Golden Emperor Orchid from 1990 depicts — despite its title – a white phalaneanopsis. It is 7″ high, 12″ wide, and was design #104-20.
I wish I had more information on this limited edition Pelargonium, particularly its dimensions because the photos do make it look relatively small. However, the angle may be deceiving. It was reportedly from 1990 with design #104-25. I have identified very few pieces in the 104-xx design number series.
The Rock Rose is an example of the later “flowers in a shell” series, the shell in this case being a scallop shell rather than a clam. The difference in workmanship between these and the 1981 Yellow Rose in Oyster Shell is immediately apparent. This series bears the legend Limited Edition 9800 in the backstamp on each one. This refers to the size of the edition, rather than a design number, because all versions bear the same 9800. The large edition size suggests that these may have been among the items marketed through the Hamilton Collection (or a similar company) during the 1990s, as were many Boehm “collector plates” and porcelain-head dolls. There were at least six in this series, including the Rock Rose (Helianthemum nummularium), Chicory, Periwinkle, and Primrose; all were 3.5″ high and 4″ wide. My guess for the timeframe of this series is mid to late 1980s.
Among the ‘1980s Malvern flower anomalies’ I have also found a few F-series design number pieces that say Made in England instead of Made in USA, even though normally the F-numbers are USA pieces.
Here’s a piece with a real identity crisis: It has a Trenton design number (F-205), a ‘made in England’ designation, and a stylized Boehm logo that is neither Malvern’s traditional horse/crown nor Trenton’s traditional horse/feather! Even more confusing is the 1990 copyright year, because the low-200s “F” design numbers correspond to approximately 1988. However, it appears that Boehm began slapping ©1990 backstamp decals on more than a few earlier pieces for some reason.
Best two out of three?? Here’s a piece with a Malvern made-in and a Malvern logo but with a Trenton F-series design number. Trenton began using the F numbers in the mid 1980s and so my guess for this one is probably 1986. A quick google brings up another “Fine Jewelers Guild Exclusive” piece, a gardenia with design #F-141-3, no doubt from the same year. But there were also several other Fine Jewelers Guild exclusives with Malvern numbers: a single magnolia (250-67), a magnolia spray (250-69), an Elizabeth of Glamis/Irish Beauty rose (250-78-2) and a pink cymbidium orchid (250-86-2.) All of these appear to be from the early to mid 1980s.
So who/what/where was the “Fine Jewelers Guild”? It was simply the name given to a specific division of the Zale Corporation’s (USA retail jewelry chain) offerings during the 1980s.
Speaking of names, logos and backstamps during the 1980s, here’s “one for the books” for sure! Thus far I have found three different backstamps for the same 1980s Malvern rose. This design’s 601-29 number shows that it has a bronze component and was produced in the mid-1980s (1985 or 1986 would be a good bet.)
The piece in the upper photo is marked First Love Rose and has the backstamp shown on the left above. It’s 12” long, 3.5” high, and is stamped on the back of one of the rose petals. The piece in the lower photo, taken from the opposite angle, is titled Mothers Day Rose. It is identical with the other one in all respects but the backstamp title (center example) and it too is stamped on the back of a petal. But wait, there’s more: Some of these bear the third (righthand) backstamp format which says The Mother’s Day Rose! [One can muse upon the fact that sometimes a first love does lead to a celebration of Mothers Day but that’s neither here nor there…]
Now, just to make things even more ridiculously complicated, the Malvern AND the Trenton studios each produced “Mother’s Day” roses that are entirely different from this one!
The Malvern one was called The Mothers Day Rose and is about 3.5” long and 2” high; the design number is 204-61 and it’s from the late 1980s. (They also used the same mold, under design number 204-61-A, for a white colorway and called that one the Society Rose but if we start going down that rabbit hole our heads might explode.)
Both of these pieces are titled “The Mothers Day Rose” but neither were Malvern pieces. Their design numbers (F586 and F602) indicate that these were not made by the original Helen Boehm owned studio but were likely produced after 2009. The F602 model was available in various colorways and it’s possible that the smaller one was as well.
The upcoming final instalment of my Boehm of Malvern series will review their human figures as well as a few ‘oddments.’
My favorite topic (especially, the Boehm Dove!).
Looking forward to more enriching discussions on Boehm porcelain. Your research is much appreciated. Thank you for sharing your interest in so many areas of fine art that is too often overlooked. -.M.K.
Nice to see these again – I was one of the aerographers at the Malvern factory who painted the flowers and white metal stems… bluebells and cowslips a speciality ! Was also part of the repairs team – taking any damaged items and restoring them to an ‘as new’ condition, which was all part of the service.
Very disappointed when they shut us down in ’92 – although I did then move onto Royal Worcester doing their figurines 🙂