The French Porcelain Society is very sorry to report the loss of one of its founding members. Gillian Wilson, curator emerita of decorative arts at the J. Paul Getty Museum, died at her home in Venice, California, on November 15th, after a long illness. Wilson joined the museum’s staff in 1971 and, building upon a collection begun by J. Paul Getty, amassed a world-famous collection of European decorative arts. Among the works of Sèvres porcelain that she secured are a pair of pots pourris fontaine of circa 1760 that had formed part of a garniture owned by Madame de Pompadour, a pair of vases oeuf of 1768-69 that had once been in the collection of Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh at Uppark House, Sussex, and a garniture of three vases des âges of 1781 that had been in Louis XVI’s private library at Versailles. With these and other acquisitions of similar calibre, she had formed, by the time of her retirement in 2003, an important collection of the manufactory’s grandest products. Privately she collected early French soft-paste porcelain and one of her favorite ceramic acquisitions for the Getty was an extraordinary pendule d’alcove in Chantilly porcelain of circa 1740. An ingenious and exuberant piece of rococo design, the duck, monkey, and comically exotic dragon nestled among the porcelain foliage of this clock case appealed to her own love of gardens and her infectious sense of whimsy and delight. The FPS has lost a terrific advocate, personality, and friend. A memorial will be held in early 2020 at the Getty.
Anna Somers Cocks will give a lecture in honour of the life and achievements of the late Gillian Wilson, at the Hochhauser Auditorium, Sackler Centre, Victoria and Albert Museum, on Monday 22nd June 2020 at 18.30
Garniture of three vases (vases des âges), Sèvres manufactory, 1781. The J. Paul Getty Museum 84.DE.718.1-.3