Although designer Christopher Ashenden is perhaps most well-known for his Connoisseur of Malvern bird sculptures, he created quite a number of wonderfully detailed felines and other animals as well.
Almost all of them were limited editions. Even though some of the limited-edition examples shown below do not have wood bases, most originally did come with one. Connoisseur bases were typically made of cherry or walnut and custom-made for each design.
The magnificent Snow Leopard is as powerful a sculpture in size as in style: it measures a whopping 31” long end-to-end, and 22” high. Only 25 were created after its introduction in 1990.
The 1988 Puma was a limited issue of 25, measuring 19” high and wide. The ferocity of his gaze is enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine. This big cat (Puma concolor) is native to the Americas and is also known as the cougar, mountain lion, and catamount; a National Geographic article called this species the “cat of many names”!
The Puma Cubs are 14.5″ high. Unfortunately, the details of this edition (introduction year and date) are not known.
The fierce Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) measures 21” high and 29” long and was an edition of 25 sculptures.
Snow Prince represents the magnificent Siberian tiger, Panthera tigris altaica. This sculpture is 15” high and was a limited issue of 25. The example shown here has missing and/or damaged whiskers; however, it’s the first photo I have found of one that still had its original wood base (albeit damaged.) One wonders how or why a base designed only to be used for a specific item can so often go missing!
This sculpture has a somewhat unusual backstamp, in that the “Snow” part is not in the same size font as “Prince”…. but all of them found to date have been in that format.
I recently became aware that there was a white-colorway edition of Snow Prince – or perhaps Snow Prince was an alternate colorway of this piece! In any case, these two editions are from the same mold. This is titled White Tiger.
It is important to distinguish this 1986 limited edition of 25 by the original Connoisseur operation, from the “White Tiger” that was produced in the early 2000s by a subsequent owner of the studio. That circa-2000s item is actually a white-colorway reproduction of the circa-1980s Royal Bengal Tiger that was issued by the original Lewis studio. When identifying any white tiger that is marked as “Connoisseur” it is important to look at the backstamp to determine what studio it actually came from. If the backstamp contains artist icons, the piece was made by the original Lewis studio; if there are no icons, it was not made by them.
Here’s yet another “big cat” that has lost its original base: the Leopard which was an edition of 25. The seller gave its length as 33.5″ but did not provide a height. However, it is probably similar to the Snow Leopard and Puma at about 20 inches.
I would not be very comfortable meeting up with a live version of this Lynx alone in the woods – just look at those sharp claws! A solitary and nocturnal hunter, Felis lynx is adapted to life in the northern forests but is now a threatened species. This sculpture is 24” high and was a limited edition of 25.
Ashenden’s depiction of the largest member of the cat family is called Simba. An edition of 25, the sculpture is 17” high and 28” long as shown. I have a strong suspicion that this originally came with a wood plinth (base) which has since gone missing.
A trio of cheetahs was created in 1985, each a limited edition of 25 sculptures that were offered for sale separately. They are Serengeti Morn I, Serengeti Morn II and Duma, Duma.
Serengeti Morn I, the walking male, is 14″ high.
Serengeti Morn II, the reclining female, is 9″ high x 16″ wide.
Duma, Duma measures 12.5″ high by 20″ wide. “Duma” is the Swahili word for the cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus.
Although the two Serengeti Morn studies were sold separately, this photograph in the 1986 Connoisseur of Malvern catalog shows them together on a single cherry wood base.
Another Ashenden cheetah is Poetry in Motion, a limited edition of 25 and measuring 20” in height. The fastest land animal on our planet certainly fits that description!
Unfortunately the only information I currently have about this circa-1980s Jaguar is the photo, the name and a height dimension of 11”. This was a limited edition designed by Richard Roberts and is the only feline in this post not created by Ashenden.
This rare photo shows the clay model of a Caracal Cat which was designed by Chris Ashenden but never put into production.
Several domestic cats were also created. The two above were both open (non-limited) editions. The white kitten is Snowflake and the calico is Whisky, both approximately 8” tall. Snowflake appeared in 1984 and Whisky in 1985.
This marvelously realistic study of a mother cat and kitten is called Queen of Siam. This was a limited edition of 50 in 1987; it is 13.5” high x 12.5” wide x 17” deep.
Another Siamese kitten is Innocence who is 9″ tall and was a limited edition of 100 in 1987. The example in the photo is missing two of the three gentian flowers that should be in the front (closest to the camera) section of the base. The detail photo is of another piece which has a slightly different coloration (yellow highlights.) The amount of yellow shading depended upon which artist painted the piece; some did not use it at all.
The same Siamese kitten was also available, sans flowers, as the open edition Blue Eyes. This was also a 1987 issue and measures 9″ high and wide.
A 2020 auction sale in the UK included all of the Connoisseur Siamese cats. On the top shelf is Queen of Siam, the middle shelf holds Innocence, and the bottom shelf has Blue Eyes along with the same kitten seen in Queen of Siam but as a separate sculpture. Like Blue Eyes, it probably was 1987 open edition although I do not know its name.