Professor Timothy Wilson

Professor Timothy Wilson

Professor Timothy Wilson

MPhil Lond, MA Oxf
Emeritus Fellow

Born 8 April 1950 (Godalming, England). British citizen.

Educated: Winchester College; the Mercersburg Academy, USA (English-Speaking Union exchange scholar); Corpus Christi College, Oxford (First class, Classical Moderations 1969; First class, BA English Language and Literature 1973); Warburg Institute, University of London (M. Phil., Combined Historical Studies, the Renaissance, 1976); Department of Museum Studies, University of Leicester 1976-7.

  • Research Assistant, Dept of Weapons & Antiquities, National Maritime Museum, 1977-79. Assistant Keeper (Curator of Renaissance collections), Dept of Medieval & Later Antiquities, British Museum, 1979-90
  • Fellow of Villa I Tatti, Florence (Harvard University), 1984.
  • Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, 1989 - 2016.
  • Professorial Fellow of Balliol College, 1989 - 2017; Emeritus Fellow, 2017 - present.
  • Professor of the Arts of the Renaissance, University of Oxford, 2010-18
  • Keeper of Western Art, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1990 - 2013.
  • Barrie and Deedee Wigmore Research Keeper, Department of Western Art, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 2013 - 17; Honorary Curator, 2017 - present.
  • Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, 1991.
  • Academician of the Accademia Raffaello, Urbino, Italy, 2003.
  • Honorary Academician of the Accademia di Belle Arti Pietro Vannucci, Perugia, Italy, 2009.
  • Member of Editorial Committee of the journal Faenza (Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche, Faenza), Italy, 2005 - present.
  • Member of Editorial Committee of the journal Schifanoia (Istituto di Studi Rinascimentali, Ferrara, Italy), 2010.
  • Trustee of the Ruskin Foundation, 1994-2000.
  • Visiting Professor at the Cooper Hewitt Institute (Smithsonian Institution), New York, 1997.
  • Member of the Art Advisory Committee, University of Wales at Aberystwyth, to 2015.
  • Member of the Public Arts Advisory Committee, University of Lancaster, 2007-9.
  • Trustee of the Oxford Preservation Trust, 2006 - 2016.
  • Trustee of the Oxford Civic Society, 2017 - present
  • Trustee of the Cartoon Art Trust, 2010 - 2015.
  • Trustee of the Radcliffe Trust, 2011 - present.
  • Honorary member of the Gruppo Archeologico Montelupino and of various Italian organizations promoting the study of Italian pottery.
  • Senior Fellow, Frick Center for the History of Collecting, New York, 2012
  • Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers of London, 2017


Although my publications include some work on sculpture, silver, jewellery, paintings, drawings, and prints, on heraldry and flags, on Renaissance iconography and emblematics, and on the history of collecting, my main research activity is in the field of European Renaissance ceramics, and particularly Italian maiolica. I have been publishing in this area regularly since 1984. This is a field of study which has to take account of approaches from art history, from material culture studies, from heraldry and genealogy, from archaeology, from analytical science, and from archival research. I have published collections of Renaissance ceramics for the British Museum, the National Gallery of Art (Washington), the Musei del Castello Sforzesco (Milan), the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Perugia, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne), and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), as well as an important private collection. My book Italian Maiolica and Europe, incorporating a catalogue of the post-Classical Italian pottery in the Ashmolean Museum, was published in the summer of 2017.

I have recently been interested in the history of the collecting of maiolica and other works of art, especially by American collectors and museums from the years after the Civil War to the Second Wolrd War. I take the view that to understand the history of collecting you have to be interested in the art market and that that means recording and analysing the history of prices paid both by collector and museums, as well as focusing on the role of dealers. In 2012 I was a Senior Fellow at the Frick Center for the History of Collecting in New York pursuing these issues. One outcome was a provisional list of the maiolica collection of John Pierpont Morgan, one of the largest and finest ever assembled in the USA; this list is too imperfect for formal publication but is made accessible here in the hope it may be useful to those interested in the subject.

I have also compiled, with the collaboration of the staff of the Lehman Collection at the Metropolitan Museum, a set of Addenda and Corrigenda to my late friend Jörg Rasmussen’s Italian Majolica in the Lehman Collection(1989), available here.

I have lectured and taught widely in the UK, Continental Europe, the USA, and Canada. Since 2008, I have lectured at the British Museum, the V & A, the Society of Antiquaries of London, the Potteries Museum (the annual Reginald Haggar lecture), the Northern Ceramic Society, the University of Aberystwyth, and the University of the Creative Arts at Farnham; at the Istituto di Studi Rinascimentali (Ferrara), in Pesaro, Perugia, Gubbio, Deruta, Faenza, Assisi, Padua and Florence; at the Louvre; at the Frick Collection and the Bard Graduate Center in New York; and in São Paulo, Brazil.

I am currently working on a catalogue of the most substantial private collection of Renaissance Italian maiolica in existence.

Selected publications

1. Renaissance and later ceramics

  • “Some Medici devices on pottery”, Faenza 70 (1984), pp. 433‑40.
  • “The origins of the Maiolica Collections of the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum”, Faenza 71 (1985), pp. 68‑80.
  • “The Cora Collection at the Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche,  Faenza”, Apollo 123 (1986), pp. 86‑9.
  • “Maiolica in Renaissance Venice”, Apollo 125 (1987), pp. 184‑9.
  • Ceramic Art of the Italian Renaissance, exhib. cat., British Museum, London 1987.
  • “The `Majolica’ ”, in Joseph Mayer of Liverpool 1803‑1886, Society of Antiquaries, London 1988, pp. 176‑82.
  • Preface and contributions to Le maioliche cinquecentesche di Castelli, Pescara 1989.
  • Maiolica: Italian Renaissance ceramics in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford 1989; second edition, 2003.
  • “Maioliche rinascimentali armoriate con stemmi fiorentini”, in L’araldica. Fonti e metodi (Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Campiglia Marittima, 1987), Florence 1989, pp. 128‑38.
  • “A fragment of Italian Maiolica from Merstham”, Surrey Archaeological Collections 79 (1989), pp. 207‑8 [with David Williams].
  • “Xanto and Ariosto”, Burlington Magazine 132 (1990), pp. 321‑7.
  • “Pollaiuolo’s lost `Hercules and the lion’ recorded on maiolica?”, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 53 (1990), pp. 299-301.
  • “Due modeste note alle Maioliche cinquecentesche di Castelli”, in Castelli e la maiolica cinquecentesca italiana (Atti del Convegno in Pescara 1989), Pescara 1990, pp. 118-20.
  • Italian Renaissance Pottery, British Museum Press, London 1991 [editor and contributor].
  • Preface to M. Munarini, Maioliche istoriate delle raccolte dei musei veneti, Este 1991.  
  • “Il pittore di maiolica `Lu Ur’ ”, Fimantiquari 2 (1993), pp. 19‑31.
  • Introduction to La Sistina della maiolica, Colledara 1993.
  • “Renaissance Ceramics”, in Systematic Catalogue of the National Gallery of Art: Western Decorative Arts, Part I, Cambridge and Washington, D.C., 1993, pp. 119-263.
  • “Alfred Pringsheim and his Collection of Italian Maiolica”, in Otto von Falke, Le maioliche italiane della collezione Pringsheim/ Die Majolikasammlung Alfred Pringsheim/ Italian Maiolica of the Pringsheim Collection(amplified reprint of edition of 1914-23, with essays by Carmen Ravanelli Guidotti, Tjark Hausmann, and Timothy Wilson), Ferrara 1994, III, pp. 79-99.
  • “Spanish pottery in the British Museum”, in C.M. Gerrard, A. Gutiérrez, and A. Vince (eds), Spanish Medieval Ceramics in Spain and the British Isles, British Archaeological Reports, International Series 610 (1995), pp. 339-51.
  • “La collezione Fortnum all’Ashmolean Museum di Oxford”, CeramicAntica anno 5, no. 8 (September 1995), pp. 38-53.
  • “Maioliche del tardo rinascimento dipinte a grottesche: nuove testimonianze della produzione a Pesaro”, Fimantiquari anno 4, no. 7 (1995), pp. 33-9.
  • “`Saint-Porchaire’: Some Signposts for Further Study”, in D. Barbour and S. Sturman (eds), Saint-Porchaire Ceramics, National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), Studies in the History of Art 52, Monograph Series II, 1996, pp. 125-9.
  • “The beginnings of lustreware in Renaissance Italy”, The International Ceramics Fair and Seminar Handbook, London 1996, pp. 35-43.
  • Italian Maiolica of the Renaissance, Milan 1996 (see link for addenda and corrigenda)
  • “Palissy-type Pottery and Limoges Enamels in the Collection of Sir Brinsley Ford”, in The Ford CollectionThe Walpole Society 60 (1998), pp. 297-301; also p. 89.
  • “Italian maiolica around 1500. Some considerations on the background to Antwerp maiolica”, in D. Gaimster (ed.), Maiolica in the North. The Archaeology of tin-glazed earthenware in north-west Europe c.1500-1600, British Museum Occasional Papers 122 (1999), pp. 5-21.
  • C.D.E. Fortnum and the collecting and study of applied arts and sculpture in Victorian England, special issue of Journal of the History of Collections, 11, no. 2 (1999) [editor, jointly with Ben Thomas, and contributor].
  •  43 catalogue entries on Urbino maiolica in  R. Ausenda (ed.), Musei e Gallerie di Milano. Museo di Arti Applicate. Ceramiche I (Milan, 2000), pp. 182-97; 210-39.
  • Two catalogue entries on maiolica in Perino del Vaga: tra Raffaello e Michelangelo, exhib. cat, Palazzo Te, Mantua, 2001, pp. 195, 214-5.
  • “An Italian maiolica albarello from Merstham, Surrey”, Post-Medieval Archaeology 35 (2001), pp. 119-21 [with David Williams].
  • “Italian maiolica in the Wernher Collection”, Apollo 155, no. 483 (May 2002), pp. 35-9.
  • “La maiolica a Castel Durante e ad Urbino fra il 1535 e il 1565: alcuni corredi stemmati”, I Della Rovere nell’Italia delle corti, Atti del convegno di Urbania 1999IVArte della maiolica, a cura di Gian Carlo Bojani, Urbino/Urbania 2002, pp. 125-65.
  • “A Victorian artist as ceramic-collector: the letters of Henry Wallis”, Journal of the History of Collections, 14 (2002), no. 1, pp. 139-59; no. 2, pp. 251-89.
  • “Presentazione” in Vincenzo de Pompeis (ed.), Atti della I giornata di Studi sulla Maiolica Abruzzese, Centro Studi Ceramici 2000 (Musei delle Genti d’Abruzzo, Quaderno 35, 2002), p. 9.
  • “Il servizio siglato `S’ eseguito nella bottega di maestro Giorgio negli anni 1524-25”, in G.C. Bojani (ed.), La maiolica italiana del Cinquecento. Il lustro eugubino e l’istoriato del ducato di Urbino, Atti del convegno di studi, Gubbio, 21, 22, 23 settembre 1998, Florence 2002, pp. 113-24.
  • “A fine line”, Ceramic Review 200 (March/April 2003), pp. 44-7.
  • “Gironimo Tomasi et le plat marqué 1582 leon du British Museum”, in J. Rosen (ed.). Majoliques européennes. Reflets de l’estampe lyonnaise (XVIe et XVIIe siècles). Actes des journées d’études internationales “Estampes et majoliques” Rome (12 octobre 1996)-Lyon (10,11 et 12 octobre 1997), Dijon 2003, pp. 86-101.
  • “`Poca differenza…’. Some warnings against overconfident attributions of Renaissance maiolica from the Duchy of Urbino”, Faenza 89, nos 1-6 (2003), pp. 150-75.
  • “The maiolica-painter  Francesco Durantino: mobility and collaboration in Urbino istoriato”, in Silvia Glaser (ed.), Italienische Fayencen der Renaissance. Ihre Spuren in internationalen Museumssammlungen, Wissenschaftliche Beibände zum Anzeiger des Germanischen Nationalmuseums (Nuremberg)vol. 22 (2004), pp. 111-45.
  • “Faenza Maiolica Services of the 1520s for the Florentine Nobility”, in Alan Chong, Donatella Pegazzano, and Dimitrios Zikos (eds). Raphael, Cellini, & a Renaissance Banker. The Patronage of Bindo Altoviti, exhib. cat, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, and Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, 2003-4, pp. 174-86; 393-4.
  • “Il ruolo di Deruta nello sviluppo della maiolica istoriata”, in Giulio Busti and Franco Cocchi (eds), La ceramica umbra al tempo di Perugino, exhib. cat., Deruta, pp. 38-49.
  • “Introduction” in M.R. Proterra (ed.), L’Antica Ceramica da Farmacia di Castelli, exhib. cat., Teramo, Castelli, and Rome, 2004, pp. 5-10; reprinted in Da Castelli all’Ermitage. Mostra dell’antica maiolica di Castelli, exhib. cat, Hermitage, Saint Petersburg, 2005-6, pp. 23-6.
  • *“Committenza roveresca e committenza delle botteghe maiolicarie del Ducato di Urbino nell’epoca roveresca” (see link for English text), and five catalogue entries in P. Dal Poggetto (ed.), I Della Rovere. Piero Della Francesca, Raffaello, Tiziano, exhib. cat., Senigallia, Urbino, Pesaro, and Urbania, 2004, pp. 203-9, 400, 412-3, 424-5.
  • “Iconografie sessuali nella ceramica rinascimentale. Un `intricamento’ tra Leonardo ed Arcimboldo”, CeramicAntica anno 15, no. 2 (February 2005), pp. 10-44.
  • “Maiolica for the Grand Tour”, Keramos  186 (2004), pp. 129-39.
  • Figulus et pictor: alcune osservazioni su pittori `veri’ e pittori di maiolica dal Quattrocento al Settecento”, Atti del XXXVII Convegno Internazionale della Ceramica (2004), pp. 155-63.
  • “Some incunabula of istoriato-painting from Pesaro”, Faenza 91, nos 1-6 (2005), pp. 8-24.
  • Le maioliche rinascimentali nelle collezioni della Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Perugia, volume 1 (with Elisa Paola Sani), Perugia 2006; volume two (with Elisa Paola Sani and others), Perugia 2007.
  • *“Le maioliche”, in F. Franceschi, R. Goldthwaite, and R. Mueller (eds), Il Rinascimento italiano e l’EuropaIVCommercio e cultura mercantile, Treviso and Costabissara 2007, pp. 217-45.
  •  “Introduction” to Atti del Convegno, Xanto: Pottery-painter, Poet, Man of the Italian Renaissance (2007)Faenza 93 (2007), nos 4-6, pp. 7-14.
  • “A personality to be reckoned with: some aspects of the impact of Xanto on the work of Nicola da Urbino”, Faenza 93 (2007), nos 4-6, pp. 251-68.
  • Omaggio ad Alan Caiger-Smith, maestro del lustro, con opere di nove ceramisti umbri ed un tributo ad Alan Peascod, exhib. cat., Gubbio, 2008 (joint editor, with Ettore Sannipoli, and contributor).
  • “Putting the fragments together”, Apollo 168, no. 558 (October 2008), pp. 111-3.
  • Italian Renaissance Ceramics: A Catalogue of the British Museum Collection (see link for addenda and corrigenda), with Dora Thornton, London, British Museum, 2009.
  • “Prefazione” in Riccardo Gresta, Frammenti pesaresi istoriati nelle collezioni Bonali e Ugolini, Rimini 2009, pp. 4-7.
  • “`Playthings still?’. Horace Walpole as a collector of ceramics”, in M. Snodin and C. Roman (eds), Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill, exhib. cat, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, and Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2009, pp. 200-19.
  • “Préface” in Jean Rosen, La faïence de Nevers, Dijon 2009, I, pp. 11-12.
  • *“La contraffazione delle maioliche all’inizio del Novecento: la testimonianza del Museen-Verband” (see link for English text), in Lucio Riccetti (ed.), 1909 tra collezionismo e tutela, exhib. cat, Perugia 2009-10, pp. 267-80.
  • “Maiolica bianca nell’Europa nord-occidentale e oltre”, in V. de Pompeis (ed.), La maiolica italiana di stile compendiario. I bianchi, exhib. cat., Teramo etc., 2010, pp. 18-22.
  • “Prefazione”, in Ettore Sannipoli (ed.), La via della ceramica tra Umbria e Marche. Maioliche rinascimentali da collezioni private, exhib. cat., Palazzo Ducale, Gubbio, 2010, pp. 15-17.
  • “Antwerp maiolica tiles at Firle Place” (with Michael Archer), Keramos  210 (2010), pp. 97-110.
  • “Le illustrazioni dell’Orlando Furioso del pittore di maioliche Francesco Xanto Avelli”, in Gianni Venturi (ed.), L’uno e l’altro Ariosto in Corte e nelle Delizie, Florence, 2011, pp. 141-51. [same essay to be published by the Louvre in French, 2012]
  • “Presentazione. La maiolica del Rinascimento” in Claudio Paolinelli and Claudia Cardinali, Magnifica Ceramica da una collezione privata. Maioliche rinascimentali e ceramiche classiche, Pesaro 2011, pp. 9-10.
  • “An Antwerp Tile from Tudor England”, in Amanda Dunsmore (ed.), “This Blessed Plot, This Earth…” English Pottery Studies in Honour of Jonathan Horne, London 2011, pp. 130-6.
  • “L’Enlèvement d’Hélène” and *“Nicola da Urbino” (see link for English text), in Majolique. La faïence italienne au temps des humanistes, exhib. cat., Musée national de la Renaissance, Ecouen, 2011-12, pp. 115; 156-195.
  • “Un servizio in maiolica per Giuseppe Baviera di Senigallia” (see link for English text), Accademia Raffaello, Atti e Studi anno 9, seconda serie, 2011, no. 1, pp. 55-62.
  • Il gusto per la maiolica istoriata nella storia del collezionismo europeo” (see link for English text), in Fabulae Pictae. Miti e storie nelle maioliche del rinascimento, exhib. cat., Museo del Bargello, Florence, 2012, pp. 144-63.
  • The Hockemeyer Collection: Maiolica and Glass, vol. II (with J.V.G. Mallet), 2012.
  • “Una sacra famiglia urbinate tra pittura e maiolica”, in Claudio Paolinelli, Devozione privata. Un capolavoro di Nicola da Urbino per la sua città, Urbino, 2012, pp. 5-7.
  • “Story-telling pots”, The Ashmolean 66 (autumn 2013), pp. 11-13.
  • Italian Renaissance and Later Ceramics. Special issue of the Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts, vol. 87, no. 1-4 (with Alan Darr and Patricia Simons).
  • “Presentazione” in Claudio Paolinelli (ed.), Lacrime di smalto. Plastiche maiolicate tra Marche e Romagna nell’età del Rinascinento, exhib. cat., Senigallia, 2014, pp. 13-16. Reprinted in la ceramica moderna e antica  anno 35, no. 285 (May-August 2014), pp. 51-3.
  • “An unexpected subject on istoriato maiolica: shooting at father’s corpse”, in 30 Objects, 30 insights. Gardiner Museum (Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, Toronto), London, 2014, pp. 14-19.
  • “La creazione della collezione di ceramiche italiane rinascimentali del Metropolitan Museum of Art di New York”, Faenza 100, no. 1 (2014), pp. 113-34.
  • “A memorial to Ian Lowe”, The Ashmolean 69 (spring 2015), p. 15.
  • L’Attribution des majoliques istoriato  de la Renaissance” (see link for English text), in Majoliques italiennes de la Renaissance. Collection Paul Gillet, exhib. cat., Fondation Bemberg, Toulouse, 2015, pp. 9-26.
  • Italian Maiolica in the Collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, with contributions by Amanda Dunsmore and Marika Strohschnieder. Melbourne, 2015.
  • Preface in Christopher Perlès et al.French Faïence. The Sidney R. Knafel Collection. Privately printed, 2016, pp. 5-7.
  • “Les majoliques anversoises en Angleterre sous le règne de Henri VIII”, in Masséot Abaquesne. L’éclat de la faïence à la Renaissance, exhib. cat., Ecouen and Rouen, 2016-7, pp. 40-7.
  • Maiolica. Italian Renaissance Ceramics in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (see link for addenda and corrigenda). New York, 2016.
  • Preface to E. Sani et al., Maiolica before Raphael. Sam Fogg Gallery, London, 2017, p. 7.
  • Italian Maiolica and Europe (see link for addenda and corrigenda). Oxford, 2017.

2. Renaissance and later metalwork, heraldry, and various

  • The Art of the Jeweller: A Catalogue of the Hull Grundy Gift to the British Museum, London 1984 [with H. Tait, J. Rudoe, and C. Gere].
  • Flags at Sea, National Maritime Museum, London 1986. Second edition, London (National Maritime Museum), 1999.
  • Contributions to Süleyman the Magnificent, by J.M.Rogers and R.M.Ward, exhib. cat., British Museum, London 1988.
  • “At the limits of drawing: comic and caricature drawings in the Ashmolean Museum”, in L. Lambourne and A.J. Doran (eds), The Art of Laughter, exhib. cat., Ashmolean Museum, Oxford 1992, pp. 71-5.
  • Contributions to and co-ordination of “Oxford. Art and Architecture”, Apollo 145, no. 423 (May 1997).
  • “The Tichborne Celebrities”, The Silver Society Journal 9 (autumn 1997), pp. 559-69 [with Timothy Kent].
  • Anne Desmet. Towers and Transformations, exhib. cat., Ashmolean Museum 1998 (editor and contributor).
  • “Bishop Fox’s Crozier” and “Early Sixteenth-Century Spoons”, in C. Ellory, H. Clifford, and F. Rogers (eds), Corpus Silver (Barton under Needwood, 1999), pp. 47-73; 247-264.
  • Edward Ardizzone 1900-1979. A centenary celebration, exhib. cat., Ashmolean Museum 2000 (editor and contributor).
  • “The Flags”, in The Anthony Roll of Henry VIII’s Navy, ed C.S. Knighton and D.M. Loades, Navy Records Society Occasional Publication 2, 2000, pp. 28-30.
  • “Sergeant Knight’s discourse on the cross and flag of Saint George” (with C.S. Knighton), Antiquaries Journal81 (2001), pp. 351-90.
  • The Battle of Pavia, Ashmolean Museum, 2003 (editor and main contributor).
  • Life of C.D.E. Fortnum in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford 2004.
  • Entries inThe Ashmolean Museum. Complete Illustrated Catalogue of Paintings, Oxford 2004.
  • Review of V. Brilliant (ed.), Gothic Art in the Gilded Age, Journal of the History of Collections 22, no. 2 (2010), pp. 341-2.
  • “The grey lady of Tarrington”, leaflet accompanying The Tarrington Tatler, 2011.
  • “Populating the Ark” in Kevin Coates. A Bestiary of Jewels, exhib. cat., Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and Ruthin Craft Centre, 2013, p. 7.  
  • Treasures of the Goldsmith’s Art. The Michael Wellby Bequest to the Ashmolean Museum (with Matthew Winterbottom), Oxford 2015.

My full list of publications includes Ashmolean exhibition leaflets, contributions to exhibition catalogues for the British Museum and the Ashmolean, and in Italy; catalogue entries in the Annual Reviews of The Art Fund; articles in the museum magazine The Ashmolean, co-ordination of/contributions to supplements on Ashmolean and British Museum acquisitions in the Burlington Magazine; and book and exhibition reviews.

The English texts of items highlighted in the list above are available through the present webpage.

A bibliography on Italian maiolica up to the end of 2017 is included here.

The document on Italian heraldry included here is a working document not intended for formal publication.

Users of any of the above documents are invited to let me have additions and corrections.