There were some items made by Connoisseur that don’t quite fit into any of the categories I’ve set up, so they’re collected here under the heading of decorative eggs, ornaments, and “oddments” – for lack of a better term!
Connoisseur produced at least two Faberge-style eggs, i.e., ones where the top half opens to reveal a ‘surprise’ inside. Both are Christian religious subjects.
The Nativity Egg
The Nativity Egg was designed by Richard Sefton and was issued in 1990 as a limited edition of 15. It is about 12” high overall and is composed of four pieces.
The four pieces are the top and bottom halves of the egg, a removeable nativity group in white bisque accented with gold, and an ormolu (gilded bronze) base.
The top half of the egg is hand-painted in the form of three ‘panels’: the shepherds pointing to the mysterious star, the three kings bearing gifts, and the creche scene. Some eggs were painted by Freda Griffiths and others by her daughter Sandy Griffiths. [Any white areas in the photos are lighting artifacts.]
When the top of the egg is removed, the white bisque nativity group (sculpted by Richard Sefton) is revealed. The group (called the “surprise”) can be lifted from the egg and displayed on its own. The lower half of the egg features a wide gold gilt band along its top edge.
The inside top and bottom halves of the egg are also hand-painted. The inside of the bottom half shows two angels in flight. The gilded band around the edge is what holds the ‘surprise’ in place when inside the egg. The inside of the lid (top half) of the egg shows a myriad of tiny gold stars against a background of the same blue.
The base, made of cast bronze electroplated with gold, depicts three angels with outspread wings supporting an openwork cage in a design reminiscent of cathedral windows. The bronze casting was done by a company located in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham. Four circles made of a cushioning material protect the bottom of the egg from being scratched by the holder (two are missing from this example.)
The Easter Celebration Egg
The following year (1991) the studio released the Easter Celebration Egg. The structure and the edition size were both the same as the Nativity Egg. In 2021, the State Botanical Garden in Athens, Georgia, opened a new building that exhibits the porcelain collection of Deen Day Sanders; both of the Connoisseur of Malvern eggs are displayed in it. I only received permission to show detail photographs of their egg, rather than the entire piece; however, it’s not really necessary because the eggs are so similar. The ormolu base is the same for both eggs; the lower half of the Easter egg is dark green rather than cobalt blue; and the finial on the Easter egg is a crucifix rather than a star.
This would be the first ‘panel’, chronologically, of the Easter egg.
The second panel follows to the right.
These photos also show the upper part of the ormolu base, and the ‘surprise’ figure, in the background.
This photo of the ‘surprise’ piece comes from a different source.
The artist icons within this piece’s backstamp show that the porcelain components of this egg were cast by Stephen Dalley, and it was painted by Freda Griffiths.
These show the underside of the lid (upper photo) and the interior of the bottom half of the egg.
At least two dated porcelain ornaments were issued, which suggests that there may have been others. These were made for Connoisseur’s USA market only, and supposedly not sold in the UK or Europe.
This is the 1989 Connoisseur Ornament. It shows an American bird, the Black Capped Chickadee, flying across a holiday wreath trimmed with a red bow and a banner showing the year. It is 3.5″ high and 2.75″ wide, and was intended to be the first of a series.
The series continued for only a few years; the exact term is yet to be determined. At least one other ornament was produced, which supposedly shows a dove; this may be from 1990. If anyone has that ornament or any others, I’d love to add photos here! A contact form is on the About the Chatsworth Lady page.
Phantom of the Opera
These are possibly the most intriguing Connoisseur items for which I have information but have never seen a photo. They were titled Music of the Night, a limited edition of 500, and Mask and Rose which was an open (non-limited) edition. Both appeared at retail from Connoisseur in December 1992.
The only reason I know these exist is because an interview appeared in a fanzine called Masquerade during the summer of 1993. The fanzine was published by the Phantom Appreciation Society which existed only from 1993 to 1997. The interview was with Jill Wark, head of Connoisseur’s corporate sales department. Jill described how, in July 1991, the studio approached Andrew Lloyd Webber with the idea of creating studies based on some of the characters in his musical. A subsequent meeting determined that the first two would depict the Phantom and Christine, with the female figure to be based on actress Sarah Brightman. Jill related that
Diane [Lewis] and I were enthralled and immediately had numerous ideas of which scene we would like to re-create. …After much deliberation, we agreed to suggest the embrace which is so readily recognised from the performance.
Richard Sefton was chosen to do the sculpting, and his first model was completed (pending Sir Andrew’s approval) in February 1992. Jill continued,
Behind the scenes we were still in discussion over the licensing agreement, working on the promotional leaflets, how we were to exhibit the models in the theatres, getting art work of the Really Useful Group’s logo for the unique back stamp on the sculptures and the literature and so on… We then had to go back again for final approval of the painted, complete version of our sculpture. Much delay was incurred due to other commitments and we had again to be very patient. Finally, we discovered some additional changes had to be made… It was amazingly December 1992 before one “Music of the Night” was ready to be displayed. During this time, the “Mask and Rose” was worked on, obviously without the same level of complexity, but we had a very long wait for a spare Phantom mask which we needed in order to develop an identical match. We were loaned a mask which we kept under lock and key and then returned very gratefully
Never having seen photos of either piece, I can only guess that the finished Music of the Night sculpture must look similar to this photo of the scene from a 1988 performance with Sarah Brightman as Christine:
In this photo the Phantom was played by Michael Crawford.
The design of Mask and Rose could be anything, I suppose, but logic suggests that it is probably a single rose stem laid across a Phantom mask. If anyone happens to have either of these pieces and would be kind enough to share photos, there is a contact form on the About the Chatsworth Lady page.
The next post in this series will take a look at the unique ways in which the original Connoisseur studio marked their items. Subsequent posts will show how to distinguish products of that studio from items that came from subsequent operations (including, unfortunately, re-issues of previously-completed limited editions.)
Browse the entire Lost Porcelain Studios series