Having covered the technical details of combining fragile porcelain with unyielding bronze in my previous ‘Porcelain Plus…’ post, this will serve as an armchair gallery-tour of what four major studios (Boehm, Albany, Royal Worcester, and the David Fryer Studio) produced in this genre. All of these items date from the 1980s.
Boehm was nominally the only American studio known for this particular combination of materials; the other three were in England. I say “nominally” because not only were all of Boehm’s bronze components made in Wales, but many of the porcelain parts were also. The “made in” part of each Boehm piece’s logo referred to the porcelain component only.
Several Boehm pieces appear in my previous post as illustrations of technique: Gardenias with Wisteria, Little Owl with Fly Agaric, Marsh Harrier, the Songbirds of the Four Seasons, a set of miniature North American Owls, a group of gilded-bronze miniature birds, and a gilded Cymbidium orchid.
The best-known Boehm porcelain/bronze pieces were two “roses” series: Favorite Roses, and Roses of Distinction.
The Roses of Distinction series was marketed by the Hamilton Collection in 1983 as an issue of 9800 of each design. The eight rose cultivars portrayed were Angel Face, Elegance, Mr. Lincoln, Peace, Queen Elizabeth, Royal Highness, Tropicana and White Masterpiece (shown here.) They are about 4” high. Most, perhaps even all, of the porcelain roses were made at the Boehm of Malvern studio; their backstamp only says Boehm limited issue, the flower name, and Made in England. The bronze stem/leaf components were made at Boehm of Llandow and are marked Boehm Made in England (even though the foundry was located in Wales.)
The other series was Favorite Roses of Our Time, of which there were six. Some of the flowers are backstamped Made in USA and some as Made in England. The stamp also includes the Boehm name and horse-head logo, the flower name and design number (FR 1 through 6), and the copyright year. The bronze component is stamped simply Boehm. This was not a Hamilton Collection series; it was sold through Boehm retailers in 1988 at $150 each. They are 3.5” high. The designs are (upper row, left to right) Shreveport, Casanova, Promise; (lower row, left to right) American Pride, Peace, Evening Star.
Not all of the ‘combination’ roses were single blooms. The First Love rose, shown here in its original box, has two. This was a Malvern Boehm issue, with design #601-29.
Several rose designs were issued in two formats: one as a single bloom and another as a multi-flower design. Here we have the three-rose, 7.5” high Elizabeth of Glamis #601-17 at left, and the smaller single Elizabeth of Glamis #601-18 at right.
Boehm produced quite a few other porcelain rose/bronze combos, either as individual designs or part of a series. For example, the USA-made Roses of Romance bloom-with-bud uses the same unnamed rose but they offered it in four color options. They are identified only by their design number which is always F491 followed by a letter P, Y, R or W to denote pink, yellow, red or white. The bronze base section is the same for all.
Roses were not the only flowers that Boehm paired with bronze; this is a group of four single orchid blooms. The two on the left are cymbidiums, the white one is a cattleya, and the pink is a phalaenopsis.
Another Hamilton Collection offering, circa 1985, was the Favorite Garden Flowers series of 8 designs in their typical offering size (9800 of each): Hibiscus (601-02), Morning Glory [above] (601-03), California Poppy (601-04), Pink Rose (601-05), Sweet Pea (601-06), Tulip (601-07) and Carnation (601-08.) The bronze section is stamped Boehm on the underside. These average about 5” high.
The Bluebird with Hibiscus combines a bird and flowers as well as bronze and porcelain.
Boehm did some animal ‘combo’ pieces too. Among the several cheetahs that the Malvern studio produced, this one balances atop a bronze branch. A limited edition of 100 in 1989, it is almost 24” wide overall and 13” high. The marks on the cheetah can be either USA or England.
I think that Boehm’s most impressive porcelain/bronze animal group is the Thompsons Gazelles. This was an edition of 100 and is even wider (27”.) I wouldn’t want to have to pack this one up!
Another popular combo genre involved human figures. The Young Dancers pair bisque ballerinas with bronze barres, chairs, and bases.
In 1986, members of the Boehm Collectors Society were offered a series of five individual bronze-and-porcelain fairies as issues of 100 pieces each. This is Celeste (design #670-02); the others were Devina (670-00), Aurora (670-01), Aria (670-03) and Mattina (670-04). The last two can be seen in my Boehm of Landow post.
Clearly, Boehm had a huge advantage in their ownership of a metal foundry, enabling them to produce as many such items as they wished. However, Albany Fine China – despite not having such a dedicated resource – was a big player in this genre. In fact, they absolutely trounced Boehm when it came to using bronze with human porcelain figures.
Albany Fine China Porcelain/Bronze
The Albany studio will eventually be profiled in an upcoming Lost Porcelain Studios post that will go into the company’s full history. One of their best-known genres was their ‘Art Deco Ladies’ series, many of which were designed by Zandra Rhodes or Gregory Rose. They range in design from relatively simple to over-the-top elaborate, so here’s a brief look.
Their ’Travel in Style’ series was their most basic ‘combo’ design for the Art Deco figures. Some of the figures, such as Orient Express, make it easy to identify the bronze components but others pose a challenge when examining only a photo!
For example, how much of Le Mans (top) and Brooklands is bronze and how much is porcelain that is painted to resemble bronze?
Bronze is given equal ‘design weight’ to porcelain in the ‘Roaring Twenties’ series. From top to bottom, above: Monaco, The Ritz, and Mandalay.
Astra, designed by Gregory Rose, is quintessentially Art Deco and was part of a six-piece series: three names beginning with A, and three that begin with Z. Very different in style, but also incorporating bronze, is Paris by David Geenty who created other Albany figures pairing a woman walking a bronze animal (although here the bronze is not used in that way.)
Another Albany genre was the combination of porcelain birds with bronze foliage and branches.Here are five of a series of British tits designed by David Burnham Smith. All are about 11” high and were limited editions of 500 on marble bases. In the front row are the Great Tit and the Blue Tit. Back row, from left to right: Crested Tit, Coal Tit, and Long-Tailed Tit.
At the other end of the size spectrum is this Miniature Blue Tit, only 2.25” high, in its original satin-lined green-velvet Albany box.
Flowers and animals got the combo treatment too, as in the Primrose and charming Hedgehog with Cyclamen which is less than five inches high.
Albany also created a series of eight porcelain-and-bronze “flower fairies”, seven of which are shown here. Front row, from left: Poppy, Snowdrop, and Pansy; back row, from left: Cornflower, Celandine, Fuchsia, and Blossom. The missing fairy is Rose.
Royal Worcester Porcelain/Bronze
Royal Worcester’s combination porcelain-and-bronze items were similar to Albany’s (and vice versa); so much so, in fact, that online sellers sometimes confuse the two.
Of course there was a floral series, the best known being the Roses of Honour. Much like Boehm’s offerings, these were marketed in large editions of 9800 of each named design and were single blooms atop a horizontal bronze stem and leaves. Shown here is Iceberg; others in the series were Alice’s Red, Queen Elizabeth, Silver Jubilee, Handel, and Elizabeth of Glamis. These are about 5” high. The similarity of the stamp and the edition size of 9800 to that of the Boehm ‘Roses of Distinction’ series makes it likely that these too were marketed by the Hamilton Collection.
The similar Princess Michael of Kent rose is seen with its original box. This was not part of the Roses of Honour series; an accompanying small certificate says “This is to certify that this Ceramic and Bronze piece has been hand made and hand decorated in the Ornamental Studio at the Worcester Royal Porcelain Factory.” Other roses in this series, named after royals, were Princess Margaret, Prince Charles, Royal Prince, and Royal Princess. These are about 4” high.
This unusual Running Hare is a refreshing change from the usual “cute bunny” genre. It is slightly more than 5” high.
Birds were another Royal Worcester mainstay. The Goldfinch was part of their American Birds on Bronze series modelled by David Fryer. This was another large edition of 9800 and is 4.75” h high. Another bird in this series was the American Robin. Sellers online frequently mis-identify birds in this series as “British Birds on Bronze” merely because the manufacturer was in England! There was indeed a Royal Worcester series by that name, but the birds are different.
Porcelain/Bronze by David Fryer
David Fryer designed porcelain-and-bronze figures for at least two studios as well as his own. His ‘American Birds’ for Royal Worcester, mentioned above, is one example.
Another example is the Peregrine Falcon, an edition of 150 issued by Royal Worcester in 1983. It is impressive at 20” high.
Another firm for whom Fryer designed was the Danbury Mint. Here are two different limited-edition kingfisher studies he created for them. On the left is Rhapsody in Blue (about 14” high), and The Kingfisher which is slightly smaller.
I think the most interesting Fryer pieces were produced by his own studio (David Fryer Studio) during the 1990s. Most of the pieces were designed by him, but I have also come across photos of some that were designed by Christopher Ashenden (possibly after his departure from Connoisseur of Malvern when that studio was sold.) Here are some of the David Fryer Studios porcelain-and-bronze pieces, identifiable by his studio mark which was a kingfisher in flight.
The Eurasian Nuthatch appears to soar in front of a single slender bronze leaf blade. It is 10” high.
I love this Barn Owl depicted as flying past (through?) a broken bronze-leaded-glass window surrounded by ivy.
I’ve seen this Golden Eagle limited edition described variously as having been by the David Fryer Studio and also as having been produced by him for the Danbury Mint. In either case it’s almost as large as his Peregrine for Royal Worcester – 18.5” high. I’d hate to have to pack this one for shipment!
A brief word here about the Danbury Mint, because in a sense there were two of them. The company was originally launched in Connecticut in 1969, making commemorative medals and coins. They later branched out into offering commemorative stamps, decorative plates, figurines, and so forth. Most Americans put Danbury into the same category as all the other mass-market collectibles companies such as the Franklin Mint, Bradford Exchange, and Hamilton Collection; these items are not considered to be “high end.”
The original Connecticut company opened an office in London in 1976 and began to develop products specifically for the UK market. Most of these items were not advertised or sold in the USA. Therefore, the company that David Fryer designed for was ‘the same, but not the same’ as the company that Americans are familiar with. Danbury still sells online today; a look at their USA and UK websites show items that are available through one but not the other, as well as some items available from both. For example, a search for “tanzanite ring” brings up four on the USA site, ranging in price from $129 to $297; but the UK site contains 34 results, ranging in price from £96 ($129) to £840 ($1135.) So, although the UK-based Danbury Mint was not regarded as being at the same top-product-quality level as Royal Worcester, it was definitely a step (or three) above any similar USA-based Danbury offerings.
A much wider range of David Fryer Studio work will appear in a future post within my Lost Porcelain Studios series. Because the studio operated independently for such a short time – only a couple of years – there are fewer examples of porcelain/bronze items with that particular imprimatur on them. He probably designed more such pieces for Royal Worcester and/or Danbury Mint than under his own studio mark and production.
The next ‘Porcelain Plus…’ post will examine a different combination: porcelain combined with crystal or glass.
Other posts in the Porcelain Plus series:
Porcelain Plus Bronze (how it’s done; interview with Antony Halls)