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For those interested in glass figurines, Fenton Art Glass Beasts, Birds & Butterflies is another of Peggy's books!

Also for those interested in glass, Fenton Art Glass Fairy Lamps & Lights is Peggy's latest book! It focuses on small, candle-lit "lamps" that were first used in the Victorian era to light dark hallways before the invention of gaslight or electricity.

The publisher for these Fenton books has gone out of business, but I am pursuing other publishing options for revised and expanded editions. Stay tuned! In the meantime, you may still find advance-ordered and used copies of these books at online booksellers.

NAO Herons: A Case Study
in Comparing Models and Marks

Updated 7/18/10

Well, these cobalt blue NAO marks keep surfacing, and I had originally thought that all of them were fakes, appearing on copies that were good enough to fool an expert. As I noted, counterfeiters generally prefer to leverage their risk by developing "fantasy models" that were never actually catalogued. In this way, the fakes, which are nearly always inferior in demonstrable ways to the product they try to mirror, can't be compared with legitimate originals. Thanks to an alert collector, I'm able to offer on this page a side-by-side comparison of a genuine NAO model, one of its oldest and most popular, and a model that looks much like it but which, for reasons I'll lay out here, I wasn't (at least initially!) convinced was genuine.

First, it must be conceded that, if my original instinct was right, this is a pretty good fake as fakes go. Counterfeiters like animal and bird models, not only becaus they're popular with consumers and thus help to leverage a counterfeiter's risk, but also because the very distinctive form of a Lladró face makes the human models a special challenge to duplicate successfully.

On the other hand, I've already noted that counterfeiters almost never try to imitate known models, and they usually try to steer clear of complex models such as this one, which have multiple projecting parts requiring extra molds and are, therefore, both expensive and challenging to make.
At left, the genuine model of NAO's "Flying Herons" (model #44), at right an item about which I was originally unsure - for reasons explained in the text of this page. Hint: it's not the color. Color variations from pale to relatively pronounced are common in hand-painted models.

Nevertheless, there are subtle differences in the two versions of the model. First, note that the legs and feet on the birds are disproportionately thick in the questionable model (above right) and that they extend beyond the birds' tails in a manner they do not in the genuine article at left. (We leave aside here the matter of whether the flying birds' legs should extend beyond the tail. One of the ironies here is that, in the questionable model, the position of the feet vis-a-vis the tail is probably more faithful to the anatomy of a flying heron!)

A close-up view of the heads on the questionable model.
It's an improbable connection for birds in flight!

The treatment of the heads in the questionable model is less succecssful. Note that the heads are parallel in the genuine model and that they actually touch - or "collide!" - in what may have been an ultimately unsuccessul effort by imitators to duplicate the original but which could just as easily have been an earlier genuine effort by actual NAO artisans that was subsequently perfected in the model. This decision to have the heads touching may have been dictated by the technical difficulties in getting those long necks and heads to suspend in space as they do in the known model. Lladró artisans are noted not only for their aesthetic but for their technical mastery - their ability to get long arms, legs, necks, and wings to occupy space as if they were suspended in it - or as if the air itself were holding them up. It's one of the telltale problems for counterfeiters, who generally don't have the technical expertise to be able to pull that off. On the other hand, that technical expertise is acquired over time, and it could be that the less successful rendition of the model is simply an earlier version that was later perfected.

I had originally been convinced, when I first wrote this web page, that a cobalt blue NAO mark was so definitively "not right" as to be the sure sign of a fake. Since then, however, I have myself purchased, in an antique shop in Northern New England, two companion models of NAO groupings with blue backstamps that I am absolutely convinced are genuine. Original NAO marks were, of course, etched or imprinted, without color, directly into the porcelain. It could be that the very earliest NAO backstamp, perhaps only used for the shortest of time periods, was actually cobalt blue, a sort of interim stamp before the brand came up with a distinctive dark brown mark color of its own.

In this particular example, I'm not bothered by the "dangling mark" (a term I use in my books on Lladró to describe a backstamp in which the paint chip doesn't completely unfurl). I am bothered by the poor definition of the NAO lettering. Though the pseudo-Greek stylization is faithful to the genuine mark, note the truncated left leg on the "N."

Still, on balance, I'm not as ready as I initially was to conclude that this blue-marked example is a counterfeit. It could, after all, be a very early example of the model, whose coarser modeling aspects were subsequently corrected as NAO artisans became increasingly skilled at making it.

(Finding More Info on Retired NAO)

At Last - A New Lladró Book!

The Lladró Guide; A Collector's Reference to Retired Porcelain Figurines in Lladró Brands

My most recent Lladró book has revised and expanded content and remains the only book in print on this topic that isn't just a catalog. Covers all Lladró and Lladró-affiliated brands (regular collection, NAO, Zaphir, Golden Memories, Hispania, Rosal, and Tang) and tells how to distinguish them from imitations and counterfeits. Revised and expanded content includes many new photos and a new chapter on future directions for collectors and the company now that it has passed from family hands. The book is in hard cover, which eliminates that annoying curl-up that happens with paperback books. You can order the book directly from the publisher, Schiffer Books, on Amazon, or from your favorite bookstore using the ISBN 13 number 978-0764358395.

Warning: If you're looking for a catalog of every retired figurine Lladró ever made, this is not the book for you. If you're looking for beautiful, full-color photos of representative models and more in-depth and well-researched information about Lladró and its history and production than you can get in thumbnail photos with captions, this book is what you're looking for.

Retail Price in Hardcover: $45

Retail Price in Hardcover: $45

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