Curator of Islamic Art

Staff Portrait – Eastern Art – Francesca Leoni

Contact details
Khalili Research Centre profile page (Research Associate)
OU Faculty of Ancient & Middle Eastern Studies profile page

Research summary

Dr Leoni is an art historian specialising in the Islamic Middle East with a focus on the Persian-speaking world. Her interests include book arts; cross-cultural exchanges between the Islamic world, Europe and Asia; the history and circulation of technologies; and contemporary art from the Middle East. She is also drawn to underrepresented or little-studied subjects including eroticism in the Islamic visual production and, more recently, occultism and divination. Dr Leoni’s research looks at objects as points of departure to pursue larger questions and explore the broader cultural landscapes that produced and consumed them. While she works on a range of media, her primary areas of expertise are illustrated and illuminated manuscripts and metalwork.



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). 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). Dr Leoni’s research has been supported by the Leverhulme Trust, the Barakat Trust and the Art Fund, amongst others. In 2009 she was the recipient of the Best Dissertation in Iranian Studies by the Foundation of Iranian Studies.