Francesca Leoni


Dr Francesca Leoni has been curator of Islamic art at the Ashmolean Museum since 2011 and is currently Acting Keeper of the Eastern Art Department. 

While she oversees the entire collection of the Islamic Middle East her focus has traditionally been on the Persian-speaking world. Her other 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 recently curated the first UK-solo exhibition of the internationally acclaimed Iraqi modernist Dia al-Azzawi, which was on view at the Ashmolean until late June, and is currently coordinating a major exhibition project about garden plants and their collecting and circulation in Oxford and across Britain (expected opening in 2026).

She has also just started a project on two Qajar paintings held in the Bodleian Libraries collection which aims to conserve and examine both canvasses with a view to learn more about oil portraiture in Iran and technical exchanges with Europe in the late 18th-early 19th century. So after a number of years dedicated to exploring occultism and divinatory practices in the Islamic world, she is happy to be able to work again on Iran and its artistic tradition, which is richly represented across the University collections.

Updated 04/10/2023

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