Although Disney characters are hardly the first things that come to mind when one thinks of the Connoisseur of Malvern porcelain studio, there were a surprising number of such designs, all produced during the 1990s. They fall into two categories: the editions based on classic Disney movies, and the series connected to a venture called Another Rainbow. Let’s look the Disney-movies sculptures first.
Alice in Wonderland: ‘All in a Golden Afternoon’ (1993)
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 Times piece was not accompanied by a photo and so I had no idea what this Connoisseur piece looked like until 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!
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, and so it’s not known how many of these actually exist beyond those first ten.
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 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 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 the same 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, and appears directly before the dedication page prior to 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 Hillard 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 single 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. Also added to this piece’s backstamp, although upside-down in this orientation, was an autograph by Diane Lewis, along with her handwritten © Disney. The artist icons indicate that Diane herself physically made the flowers on this piece.
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.
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, the aforementioned tiger lily, and a dandelion in a supporting role, as well as a calla lily. The largest 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 more faithful to the original drawing for this insect than they were to the bread-and-butter-fly. It would have been interesting to see what Connoisseur might have done with it!
I do not know whether Connoisseur of Malvern produced any other Alice in Wonderland pieces.
Sleeping Beauty: ‘Once Upon a Dream’ (1994)
A Disneyana discussion forum contained a post regarding the 1994 Convention at Walt Disney World: “Connoisseur of Malvern has ‘Once Upon A Dream’, a scene of Prince Philip and Briar Rose, surrounded by forest animals — in bone china and only 10 of these exist.” Clearly, this sculpture must portray the movie scene of Prince Philip and Princess Aurora waltzing to that lovely song.
If anyone happens to have one of these, I would love the chance to include a photo or two here; I have never seen an image of this piece but can well imagine it! There is a contact form on the About the Chatsworth Lady page.
Beauty and The Beast: ‘Enchanted Rose’ (1995?)
This piece may have been created for release at the 1995 Disneyana Convention; the movie itself was a 1991 release. The Enchanted Rose in a bell jar was an edition of 25. I’ve seen only one of these appear at auction, where it was described as being 14.75” high and 7.5” wide, although it’s uncertain whether that meant only the porcelain, or the slightly taller bell jar as well.
Song of The South: ‘Don’t Throw Me Into the Briar Patch’
This is an artist’s proof or prototype of the figures comprising an un-released grouping entitled Don’t Throw Me Into The Briar Patch, based on the 1946 movie Song of the South. In the original story, Brer Rabbit pleads “Drown me, roast me, hang me, do whatever you please! Only please, Brer Fox, don’t throw me into the briar patch!” Of course, the fox did do exactly that, thus allowing the rabbit to escape unharmed because he was “born and bred in the briar patch!” The individual sculptures would have been assembled on a single base; it’s unknown what size each individual figure is. (Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions)
Carl Barks Ducks by Connoisseur for Another Rainbow
Carl Barks was the artist who created the Disney ducks that we know so well, including my personal favorite: Uncle Scrooge. Mr. Barks died in 2000 at the venerable age of 99, having delighted fans all over the world with his wonderful art. The story of how he came to collaborate with Connoisseur of Malvern is both fascinating and complex but I will try to summarize it as briefly as I can.
The story begins with Bruce Hamilton, owner of Hamilton Galleries and a major collector who had worked with Disney for years in connection with promoting and marketing Carl Barks’ art works. Another collector introduced Mr. Hamilton to the management of Brielle Galleries in New Jersey. Together they came up with the idea of limited-edition porcelain sculpture renditions of some of Carl Barks’ paintings. Things came together whereby Disney, Carl Barks, Connoisseur of Malvern, and Bruce Hamilton entered into a contract to produce a new limited edition sculpture each year for ten years, beginning in 1992. Mr. Hamilton was to hold marketing and distribution rights under his corporation, Another Rainbow Inc. – the company name being taken from a famous Barks painting.
There was also a softcover book entitled Carl Barks and the Disney Ducks published in conjunction with the launch of the Connoisseur series and a special edition of this book was included with each sculpture purchased. These books contain a foldout section showing each of the ten Barks paintings upon which the full series would be based.
Things went well for the first several years, Connoisseur working closely with Carl Barks to ensure that the detail and quality of the sculptures were beyond reproach and of course that Mr. Barks would be 100% satisfied with the results. But things were not progressing quite so smoothly at Disney. After its President Frank Wells died in a plane crash, CEO Michael Eisner made some moves that did not sit well with the rest of the management and as a result many left the company. The incoming “new blood” wanted to shake things up, and this began to adversely affect the relationships between Disney and companies such as Bruce Hamilton’s. Things became more and more acrimonious until at last the word “buyout” was tossed onto the table. A condition of the buyout of the contract by Disney was that all of the unsold Connoisseur sculptures except for those previously allotted to Hamilton would be destroyed. This took place in 2001 and descriptions of that event can be found here and here. The market value of the destroyed sculptures at the time was reportedly about $250,000.
Important note: All of the characters shown below are fully copyrighted by the Walt Disney Company and Carl Barks. The images are provided here for informational and research purposes only and not for any commercial reuse or reproduction. The photographic images are watermarked as per their source.
Richard Sefton was the Connoisseur sculptor/designer for all of the Disney ducks studies shown here. All of them were designed at the original Connoisseur of Malvern studio, although the final three retail releases were not physically produced there.
Always Another Rainbow was issued as an edition of 100 plus ten artist’s proofs. It was the first in the series and is based on a 1974 Barks painting. All of the ‘gold’ representations such as the nuggets and the veins in the rocks, were applied in 22k gold, and the base is made of cherry wood. None of these sculptures were destroyed, as they had all sold out before the ‘destruction event’. The #94 sculpture came up for auction in April 2021 at a sale devoted to Disney and other animation art; the opening bid was $1200 and the hammer price was $7500.
I was curious to know how Connoisseur signed the sculptures they produced for this project but could not find any mention of this. So, I reached out to someone who had an example of Always Another Rainbow for sale on eBay and asked about it. The seller replied that although Connoisseur is identified as the studio within the accompanying book which has an illustrated chapter describing the creation process, neither the name nor their logo appear on the sculptures themselves, and kindly gave permission for me to use these photos to illustrate what the signature and backstamp areas look like.
What I’d really like to know is why the Connoisseur name did not appear, considering that the studio actually created all of the sculptures! (but see below for the backstamp on at least one of them)
The Certificate of Authenticity that accompanied each piece gave additional details about the design.
Carl Barks communicated regularly with Richard Sefton during the design stages, and sent him sketches such as this one.
Two plaster models of Always Another Rainbow.
Here is Carl Barks, at the age of 94, with the finished prototype of Always Another Rainbow.
Dude for a Day was the second in the series at 11” tall and is based on a 1975 Barks painting. Donald’s natty stickpin contains a zircon for just the right sparkle! The bouquet is composed of more than 400 individual, hand-assembled flower petals and leaves. Twenty-six of the original pieces were destroyed, making it an effective limited edition of 74 sculptures. The lithographs that would have accompanied all of the destroyed figurines were turned over to the Walt Disney Company, by the way. The #94 sculpture was sold in April 2021 with an opening bid of $600 and sold for $4000.
It should be noted that the sculpture numbers do not correlate with the ‘body count’ of surviving (post-Destruction Event) pieces. In other words, the surviving 74 examples of Dude for a Day are not sculptures #1 through #74, but can bear – as seen here – any number between 1 and 100. The pieces that were consigned to the April 2021 auction at Heritage were all numbered #94 except for the piece de resistance, which was the #1 Trail of The Unicorn piece created for Carl Barks.
Pick and Shovel Laborer is based on Barks’ 1974 painting of the same name. The sculpture is just over 11.5” high. The porcelain coins were fired with 24k gold, and the dollar bills read “City of Duckburg/Cool Cash/One Hundred Quackers”. Thirty-eight of these were destroyed, leaving an effective edition of 62. The #94 piece in the April 2021 auction had an opening bid of $750 and a hammer price of $8000.
Sixty Years Quacking was issued in 1994 which was Donald Duck’s sixtieth “birthday”. He stands just over 13” tall on his cherry wood base. Fifty-six of the regular issue were destroyed, leaving an effective issue of 44. The #94 sculpture opened at $500 in the April 2021 sale and fetched a hammer price of $4000.
Sixty Years Quacking was the last of ducks that were actually produced at the original Connoisseur studio premises in Ledbury. This photo shows Richard Sefton working on his clay model of this design.
Unlike the previous sculptures, The Quintessential Scrooge was not modelled on a painting of the exact same name but was adapted from one portion of a 1971 work entitled ‘Blue Composition of Ducks’ which shows Scrooge surrounded by other characters including the Beagle Boys and Magica deSpell. It was a limited edition of 500 issued in 1992, and there were ten Artist’s Proofs. One source claims that it was originally intended as a premium to be given to those who purchased the Dude for a Day sculpture plus the Fabergé Midnight Egg as well.
The backstamp on this design is unusual because it says simply “one of 500” without the usual convention of having an individual sculpture number. It also bears the Connoisseur of Malvern stamp, which doesn’t appear on the other pieces (at least not visibly; I’ve never seen a photo of the underside of the others.) Interestingly, the sculpture name is shown as “The Quintessential Uncle Scrooge” even though all print sources omit the “Uncle” when citing it. The edition size was subsequently reduced to only 100 and of those, 46 were destroyed, leaving an actual edition of 54. This is a smaller sculpture than the others, being eight inches high.
The next two pieces were not manufactured by the original Connoisseur of Malvern studio, but instead by one of the studio’s subsequent owners. Normally, I do not show any non-original-studio pieces in this series, but am making an exception in this case because these two were marketed and sold by the same Disney/Another Rainbow collaboration as the previous (original-studio) five.
Lavender and Old Lace, the sixth in the series, was a declared limited issue of only 25 plus an unknown number of artist’s proofs, but only 17 were ever made. It is 14.5” tall and measures 15” x 12” at the base. The change of studio ownership is probably why this and the next piece were the only ones to have been produced individually as they were ordered, rather than all at once in advance. That is why none were included in the destruction event.
The seventh and final sculpture in what was originally intended as a ten-year annual series was The Expert in 1997. This was a declared edition of 25 plus three artist’s proofs, but only 15 are known to have definitely been made. The magnifying glass in Scrooge’s hands is made of glass, and Carl Barks designed the actual gold coin that he is examining, basing it on the 1908 United States ‘Double Eagle.’
There were also other Carl Barks sculptures that were designed as part of the projected 1990s series but were never produced for retail. The original art for them was shown in the softcover book’s foldout. Both of the photos below, as well as the accompanying information, are courtesy of Heritage Auctions and James Halperin. It is not known whether the original studio made these prototypes.
Flubbity Dubbity Duffer measures about 14” tall and 17” across at its widest point). Only three of these were made. The three grassy sections are separate and fit into the custom-made wooden base. The sculpture itself is based on a 1972 Barks painting and subsequent lithograph, the story of which can be found here.
Luck of the North is 15.5” tall and 17” wide and like all of the other sculptures is signed in gold leaf by Carl Barks. Only one example of this sculpture is known at present, and so there may well have been only this single prototype created.
Far Out Safari was originally planned to be an edition of ten, but only two proof pieces were ever created, of which this is one. It is approximately 20″ high and 26″ wide.
A Christmas Trimming was likewise planned for the series, but only this single prototype was made. It is slightly more than 20″ high, and is 23″ wide. The original Barks art from which this piece was taken is generally known as Christmas Composition.
If the series had been completed as per the book illustrations, another sculpture would have been based on the Barks painting ‘Time Out for Fun’ and would have included the accompanying lithograph shown above. This lithograph, produced under license from Disney by Another Rainbow Inc., was purportedly never published. It’s fun (no pun intended) to imagine what the Connoisseur sculpture based on it might have looked like! By the way, notice the title of the magazine that Donald is so avidly reading. 😉
Trail of the Unicorn (Scrooge McDuck Limousine)
The rarest of the Carl Barks studies produced by Connoisseur as part of the ‘Another Rainbow’ series was Scrooge McDuck’s limousine. It certainly is by far the largest of the Disney pieces, being 5 feet long and 14” wide!
The sculpture, designed by Richard Sefton, is adapted from an illustration at the end of the Barks late-1940s story Trail of the Unicorn which was later reprinted by Fantagraphics Press as part of their Complete Carl Barks Disney Library series. (The image below is a photograph of a review or advertisement of unknown origin for the Fantagraphics book.)
In this story Donald Duck has been offered a $10,000 reward by his Uncle Scrooge to travel to the Himalayas and bring back the only animal missing from Scrooge’s zoo: a unicorn. The party ends up including nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie as well as Donald’s ever-conniving cousin Gladstone Gander who is gaping at the limo from his blue convertible.
Although this was intended as an extremely limited retail edition – probably no more than five – it appears that even fewer were actually produced. The first (#1) was given to Carl Barks – as were all of the other #1 pieces in the Another Rainbow series – and there is a proof piece in storage in the UK.
The rare photo above, courtesy of Martyn Lewis, shows the #1 sculpture which was given to Carl Barks. Richard Sefton and painter Tracey Arrowsmith are shown next to the car, which is still unfinished; certain parts of the front bumper section have yet to be gilded.
This special #1 piece differs in three ways from the retail edition, which will be shown below. First, the colorway: the retail cars are red, and all the ‘trim’ parts are painted gold. The #1 car is white, and the trim is gold in some places but chrome in others.
Next, the #1 car has a crest painted on the side of the back doors: E pluribus keepum, which is a perfect motto for Uncle Scrooge! The retail version does not have anything on the doors; however, the original art in the Fantagraphics comic shows the limo with the initials D.D. (for Donald Duck) in that location. And finally the front and back license plates on the retail pieces say MCDUCK, but on this one the front plate says Carl Barks instead.
This actual piece was included in the April 2021 sale at Heritage Auctions; the condition was noted as “Very Good” with “evidence of minor restoration.” These photos are from that auction listing; this one is excellent at showing the scale! The bidding opened at $3250, and it brought a hammer price of $62,500 which was the highest in the auction. The second-highest item, a 200-lb, 41”-high bronze of Scrooge McDuck, sold for $50,000.
I have been unable to confirm whether the actual retail name of this sculpture was indeed Trail of the Unicorn but, considering that all of the other Connoisseur/Barks/Another Rainbow studies were named after the story upon which the original painting or illustration was based, I believe it probably was. Supposedly the art showing Donald in the limo appears on the last page of that 1950 story.
The photographs below, showing the retail edition, appear through the courtesy of a private collector.
Scrooge McDuck has employed various chauffeurs throughout the years; some were ducks and others dogs. In those stories the chauffeur wore a traditional uniform and cap; however, in the illustration and sculpture the drivers wear an adaptation of a Grenadier Guards bearskin and tunic.
Although in the original Barks illustration only Donald appears in the back seat, here he is joined by Uncle Scrooge.
The trunk/boot of the limo bears the logos of Another Rainbow, Carl Barks, and Disney. And naturally – because Uncle Scrooge need never concern himself with the price of fuel – the limousine model is the “Roadhog V24”!
The retail limousine was sold with this specially-designed solid wood table base. The entire display is more than 6 feet long and 3 feet high; this must have been a monumental (no pun intended!) challenge to pack for overseas shipment. One can only imagine the weight….
If anyone has any Disney-themed Connoisseur of Malvern sculptures not shown here, I’d love to be be able to add them! There is a contact form on the About the Chatsworth Lady page.
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