Francesca Leoni


Assistant Keeper and Curator of Islamic Art

Research Associate, Khalili Research Centre

SCR, Wadham College

Faculty / College Address:

Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology
Beaumont Street
Tel. (+ 1865 2) 78076


Francesca Leoni has been curator of Islamic art at the Ashmolean Museum since 2011 (Yousef Jameel Curator, 2011–16). Prior to Oxford, she held curatorial, research and teaching posts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2008–11), Rice University (2008–10) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2007–8).  Her interests include book arts; cross-cultural exchanges between the Islamic world, Europe and Asia; the history and circulation of technologies; occultism and divination; and modern and contemporary art from the Middle East.

Dr Leoni received her Laurea Degree in Oriental Languages and Civilisations from the Istituto Universitario L’Orientale di Napoli (1999), and her MA and PhD from Princeton University (2005, 2008).  Her research has been supported by the Leverhulme Trust, the Barakat Trust, the Art Fund, the Foundation for Iranian Studies and the British Institute for Persian Studies, amongst others. 


Select recent publications:


Aegean Treasures: Greek Island Embroideries from the Ashmolean Museum (London: Hali Publishing, October 2021).

Islamicate Occult Sciences in Theory and Practice, co-edited with Liana Saif, Matthew Melvin-Koushki and Farouk Yayha (Leiden: Brill, 2020).

Power and Protection: Islamic Art and the Supernatural, exhibition catalogue, main author and editor, with essays by Christiane Gruber and Pierre Lory and contributions by Venetia Porter and Farouk Yahya (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2016).

Peer-reviewed Articles and Book Chapters

“Sufi Talismans,” in Handbook of Sufi Studies, eds. Alexandre Papas and Thierry Zarcone (Leiden: Brill, 2023).

“Breaking with Tradition,” in Dia al-Azzawi: A Picture of Poetry, ed. Louisa McMillan (Milan: Skira, 2023), 14–20.

“The Feathers of the Soul: The Mantiq al-Tayr and Its Artistic Legacy,” with Mallica Kumbera Landrus, in Ali Khazim: Suspended in Time , ed. Mallica Kumbera Landrus (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2022), 7075.

“Introduction,” with Liana Saif, in Islamicate Occult Sciences in Theory and Practice, eds. Liana Saif, Francesca Leoni, Matthew Melvin-Koushki and Farouk Yayha (Leiden: Brill, 2020), 1–44.

“A Stamped Talisman,” in Islamicate Occult Sciences in Theory and Practice, eds. Liana Saif, Francesca Leoni, Matthew Melvin-Koushki and Farouk Yayha (Leiden: Brill, 2020), 605–47.

“‘The Illusion of an Authentic Experience’: A Lustre Bowl in the Ashmolean Museum,” with Dana Norris, Kelly Domoney, Andrew Shortland, Moujan Matin, Muqarnas 36 (2019): 229–49.

“‘The Moon in Islamic Portable Arts,” in The Moon: A Voyage through Time, exhibition catalogue, ed. Christiane Gruber (Toronto: Aga Khan Museum, 2019), 29–36.

“Islamic Occultism and the Museum,” Installing Islamic Art: Interior Space and Temporal Imagination, special issue of International Journal of Islamic Architecture 7.2 (2018): 327–51.

“Taille de guepe et barbe fleurant l’ambroise: Le portraits de Fath ‘Ali Shah,” in L’Empire des roses: Chefs-d’oeuvre de l’art person du XIXe siècle, ed. Gwenäelle Fellinger (Paris: Musée du Louvre Lens; Editions Snoeck, 2018), 114–17.



Photograph of Francesca Leoni