Department of History of Art and Archaeology & School of Arts

Professor Anna Contadini

Key information

Department of History of Art and Archaeology Professor of the History of Islamic Art Centre for Iranian Studies Member Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies Member
Department of History of Art and Archaeology & School of Arts
Laurea (Venice), PhD (London)
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Telephone number
+44(0) 20 7898 4458
Support hours
Tuesdays, 3:00pm–4:00pm (in person); Wednesdays, 1:00pm–2:00pm (in person)


Professor Anna Contadini graduated in Arabic and Islamic Art at the Oriental Institute of Venice University with a thesis on miniature painting of the Mamluk period. She also has a great interest in music and has received a Diploma in piano as a soloist from the Conservatorio ‘Benedetto Marcello’ in Venice. Subsequently she completed her doctorate in Islamic Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of London University with a thesis on early Arab and Persian miniature painting. She was then appointed Baring Foundation Research Fellow in Islamic Studies at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, where she was based in the Research Department. She conducted research on a range of objects drawn from the splendid Islamic collection of the Museum, but concentrated on the Fatimid material, on which she then wrote a book, published in 1998. From 1994-7 she was in Ireland, as Lecturer in Islamic Art at Trinity College Dublin, and Curator of the Islamic Collections of the Chester Beatty Library. Anna Contadini is now Professor in the History of Islamic Art.

Professor Contadini is the SOAS representative for the Illuminating Objects programme of The Courtauld Gallery which aims to shine new light on unexpected objects from the decorative arts and sculpture collections, through partnerships with SOAS, King’s College, London, the University of Kent in Canterbury and University College, London.

Research interests

One of Professor Contadini’s main areas of research is on Arabic and Persian illustrated manuscripts. She was editor of the book Arab Painting (2007, revised edition 2010) and is the author of A World of Beasts: A Thirteenth-Century Illustrated Arabic Book on Animals (the Kitāb Na‘t al-Ḥayawān) in the Ibn Bakhtīshū‘ Tradition (2012), both published by Brill. She was granted a “Visiting Researcher” position at the University of Heidelberg, 2009-2011, for interdisciplinary research on “Images of Alterity” in Medieval Western and Arabic and Persian illustrated manuscripts. She has also been elected to Associate Member of ICMA (International Centre of Medieval Art).

Professor Contadini is also continuing work on the interconnections between Europe, especially Italy, and the Middle East. The updated proceedings of the international conference on “The Renaissance and the Ottoman World” that she organized with the Warburg Institute in 2005 will soon be published by Ashgate as a co-edited volume of papers with Claire Norton. Another important aspect of her work on the connections between East and West is as the principal researcher and director of an interdisciplinary project on the Pisa Griffin, Mari-Cha Lion, Lucca Falcon and related metalwork and material culture, in collaboration with Pisa Opera del Duomo, Pisa University, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR), Oxford University, and Istituto Superiore per la Conservazione ed il Restauro (ISCR) in Rome. One of the outcomes of this project is a seminar held in SOAS on 14 February 2013 that brings together art historians, historians and scientists to share their findings on these objects.

In 2012 Professor Contadini curated the exhibition Gifts of Recognition: Modern and Contemporary Art from the SOAS Collections, 11 July - 22 September 2012, which highlighted a number of art works that belonged to the School. This stems from an earlier 2007 project on the SOAS historical and art historical collections which resulted in a publication and exhibition at the Brunei Gallery titled Objects of Instruction, Treasures of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 11 October – 15 December 2007. Generously funded by the Foyle Foundation and the AHRC, the exhibition culminated in a permanent, rotating display of SOAS artistic and archival Treasures in the Foyle Special Collections Gallery. This is an important project aimed at publicizing the School’s remarkably rich but little known artistic and archival collections. It made the artistic assets of SOAS accessible for the first time to a wider audience, including students, scholars, and members of the general public.

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Mr Gregory Bilotto The Context of Fāţimid Metalwork
Mr Jasdip Singh Dhillon Changes beyond the surface: Tracking the relationship between paper-making and human change in the Indus river basin region from 1000-1947 through a study of historical paper specimens
Keramat Fathinia Historical and aesthetical evolution of Siāh-Mashq in Persian calligraphy with a focus on the works of Mirzā Qulāmrizā over the Qājār period Iran

Elizabeth Kelly A Study of the Zoomorphic Incense Burners of Medieval Khurasan
Kasia Ploskonka Contesting convention: Contemporary art within the political landscape of post-Soviet Central Asia
Katy Shahandeh Rising from the Ashes: The Semiotics of Subversion in the Works of Contemporary Iranian Women Artists of the "Burnt Generation" (working title).


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