SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Anna Contadini

Laurea (Venice), PhD (London)
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Anna Contadini
Department of History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Director of the 'Treasures of SOAS' project

School of Arts

Professor of the History of Islamic Art

Centre for Iranian Studies


London Middle East Institute (LMEI)


Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies


The Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme

Scholarships Sub-board Chair, Outreach Sub-board Chair and Programme Board Member

Professor Anna Contadini
Email address:
+44(0) 20 7898 4458
+44(0) 20 7898 4479
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Brunei Gallery
Office No:
Office Hours:
By email appointment


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. See

Inaugural Lecture

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Professor Anna Contadini's Inaugural Lecture: Transforming Beauty: Artistic and Cultural Contacts Between The Middle East and Europe


Courses Taught
PhD Students supervised
  • Aisha Stoby, Art Movements their regional Cross-Currents in the GCC (Working Title)
  • Gregory Bilotto, The Context of Fāţimid Metalwork
  • Kasia Ploskonka, Contesting convention? The politics of contemporary art in post-Soviet Central Asia
  • 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
  • Tara Desjardins , Studies on Mughal Glass.
Postdoctoral Fellow Supervised
  • Bilha Moor, Rothschild Research Fellow, 2013-14, "Illustrated Islamic Cosmographies 1550-1700"
  • Francesca Anzelmo, Doctoral Fellow, 2010, " The Decoration of the Ceiling of the Cappella Palatina in Palermo"
PhD Supervised
Completed Ph.D students:
  • Kaveh Bakhtiar, "Contemporary Islamic Architecture in Britain", 2015
  • Katherine Hughes, "Samanid material culture and identity formation in post-Soviet Tajikistan", 2015
  • Nikolaos Vryzidis, "A study on Ottoman Christian aesthetic: Greek-Orthodox vestments and ecclesiastical fabrics, 16th-18th centuries", 2015
  • Farouk Yahya, "Magic and Divination: the Malay Tradition in Illustrated Manuscripts", 2013
  • Alison Ohta, "Covering the Book: Bindings of the Mamluk period, 1250-1516 CE", 2012
  • Anna McSweeney, “The Green and the Brown: a study of Paterna ceramics”, 2011
  • Emily Shovelton, “Sultanate painting from the north Indian subcontinent: three fifteenth century Persian illustrated manuscripts”, 2009
  • Gehan Ibrahim, “The Role of Architectural Representations in the Context of Islamic Decoration”,2006
  • Adriana De Miranda, “Water Architecture in Syrian Lands: the Waterwheels”, 2006
  • Abdolhamid Keshmirshekan, “Contemporary Iranian Painting: Neo-Traditionalism during the 1960s to 1990s”, 2004
  • Moya Carey , “Painting the Stars in a Century of Change – A thirteenth-century copy of al-Sufi’s Treatise on the Fixed Stars, BL Or. 5323”, 2001


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.


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Available for
  • TV
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  • Special Study Programmes
  • Short Term Consultancy
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Regional Expertise
  • Africa
  • Near and Middle East
Country Expertise
  • Egypt
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Jordan
  • Spain
  • Syria
  • Turkey
  • Arabic
  • French
  • Italian
  • Spanish


Authored Books

Contadini, Anna (2012) A World of Beasts: A Thirteenth-Century Illustrated Arabic Book on Animals (the Kitāb Na‘t al-Ḥayawān) in the Ibn Bakhtīshū‘ Tradition. Leiden; Boston: Brill.

Contadini, Anna and Bayani, M. and Stanley, T. (1999) The Decorated Word: Qu'rans of the 17th to 19th centuries in The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art. London: Azimuth Editions and OUP.

Contadini, Anna (1998) Fatimid Art at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Leiden: V & A.


Contadini, Anna (2007) 'A Jewel of Mughal Painting: The SOAS Anvar-i Suhayli Manuscript'. Orientations, (38) 8, pp 51-56.

Contadini, Anna (2006) 'A Question in Arab Painting: The Ibn al-Sufi Manuscript in Tehran and its Art-Historical Connections'. Muqarnas, (23), pp 47-84.

Contadini, Anna (2005) 'Fatimid Ivories Within a Mediterranean Culture'. The Ivories of Muslim Spain, The Journal of the David Collection, ed. by K. von Folsach and J. Mayer, (2) 2, pp 226-247.

Contadini, Anna (2004) 'A Wonderful World: Folios from a Dispersed Manuscript of the Nuzhat-nama'. In Behrens-Abouseif, D. and Contadini, A. (eds), Essays in Honor of J. M. Rogers, Muqarnas, (21), pp 95-120.

Contadini, Anna (2003) 'A Bestiary Tale: Text and Image of the Unicorn in the Kitāb naʿt al-hayawān (British Library, or. 2784)'. Muqarnas, (vol. 2), pp 17-33.

Contadini, Anna (1995) 'Islamic Manuscripts and the ARCH Foundation'. Apollo 396, pp 29-30.

Contadini, Anna (1994) 'The Ibn Buhtishu` Bestiary Tradition. The text and Its Sources'. Medicina nei Secoli Arte e Scienza, (6) 2, pp 349-364.

Contadini, Anna (1994) 'A Figurative Islamic Ivory Chess Piece'. Scacchi e Scienze Applicate, (12) 14, pp 3-4.

Contadini, Anna (1989) 'The Kitab Manafi` al-Hayawan in the Escorial Library'. Islamic Art, (3), pp 33-57.

Contadini, Anna (1988) 'Due pannelli di cuoio dorato nel Museo Civico Medievale di Bologna'. Annali di Cà Foscari, Rivista della Facoltà di Lingue e Letterature Straniere dell'Università di Venezia, Serie Orientale, (XXVII) 3, pp 127-142.

Contadini, Anna (1986) 'Note sul Kitab Manafi` al-Hayawan dell'Escorial'. Annali di Cà Foscari, Rivista della Facoltà di Lingue e Letterature Straniere dell'Università di Venezia, Serie Orientale, (XXV) 3, pp 109-121.

Edited Books or Journals

Contadini, Anna, (ed.), (2017) Celebrating Art and Music: The SOAS Collections. London: SOAS; Taylor McKenzie.

Contadini, Anna and Norton, Claire, (eds.), (2013) The Renaissance and the Ottoman World. Farnham, UK: Ashgate.

Contadini, Anna, (ed.), (2010) Arab Painting: Text and Image in Illustrated Arabic Manuscripts (revised edition). Leiden: Brill.

Contadini, Anna, (ed.), (2007) Arab Painting: Text and Image in Illustrated Arabic Manuscripts. Leiden: Brill. (Handbuch der Orientalistik).

Contadini, Anna, (ed.), (2007) Objects of Instruction: Treasures of the School of Oriental and African Studies. London: SOAS.

Behrens-Abouseif, Doris and Contadini, Anna, (eds.), (2004) Essays in Honor of J. M. Rogers. Leiden: Brill. (Muqarnas).

Contadini, Anna and Burnett, Charles, (eds.), (1999) Islam and the Italian Renaissance. London: The Warburg Institute. (Warburg Institute Colloquia).

Book Chapters

Contadini, Anna (2017) 'Text and Image on Middle Eastern Objects: ​The Palmer Cup  ​in Context'. In: Shirley, Pippa and Thornton, Dora, (eds.), A Rothschild Renaissance: A New Look at the Waddesdon Bequest in the British Museum. London: British Museum Research Publications 212, pp 124-145.

Contadini, Anna (2017) 'Patronage and the Idea of an Urban Bourgeoisie'. In: Necipoglu, Gülru and Flood, Finbarr Barry, (eds.), A Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture, Vol. 1. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, pp 431-452.

Contadini, Anna (2016) 'Threads of Ornament in the Style World of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries'. In: Necipoğlu, Gülru and Payne, Alina, (eds.), Histories of Ornament: From Global to Local. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, pp 290-308 and notes on pp. 397.

Contadini, Anna (2016) 'Volando sopra il Mediterraneo: il Grifone di Pisa e aspetti della metallistica islamica medievale'. Genova, una capitale del Mediterraneo tra Bisanzio e il mondo islamico. Storia, arte e architettura. Ed. by Alireza Naser Eslami. Torino: Bruno Mondadori, pp 75-88.

Contadini, Anna (2015) 'Facets of Light: The Case of Rock Crystals'. In: Bloom, Jonathan and Blair, Sheila, (eds.), God is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth. Light in Islamic Art and Culture. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, pp. 121-155.

Contadini, Anna (2014) 'Picturing music in Islamic art'. In: Ward, Rachel, (ed.), Court and Craft: A Masterpiece from Northern Iraq. London: The Courtauld Gallery with Paul Holberton Publishing, pp 46-51.

Contadini, Anna (2014) '"L'Ornamento nel Mondo Ottomano e nell'Italia del Rinascimento: Trasmissione e Congiunzione"'. Eslami, N. Alireza (ed.), Incontri di Civiltà nel Mediterraneo. L'Impero Ottomano e l'Italia del Rinascimento. Storia, Arte e Architettura. Firenze: Olschki Editore, pp 57-74.

Contadini, Anna (2013) 'Sharing a Taste? Material Culture and Intellectual Curiosity around the Mediterranean, from the Eleventh to the Sixteenth Century'. In: Contadini, Anna and Norton, Claire, (eds.), The Renaissance and the Ottoman World. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, pp 23-61.

Contadini, Anna (2010) '“Translocation and Transformation: Some Middle Eastern Objects in Europe”'. The Power of Things and the Flow of Cultural Transformation. Art and Culture between Europe and Asia, ed. by Lieselotte E. Saurma-Jeltsch and Anja Eisenbeiss. Berlin-Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag, pp 42-65.

Contadini, Anna (2009) 'Ayyubid Illustrated Manuscripts and their North Jaziran and `Abbasid Neighbours'. In: Hillenbrand, R. and Auld, S., (eds.), Ayyubid Jerusalem. The Holy City in Context 1187-1250.. London: Altajir Trust, pp 179-194, and col. ills. 17-37..

Contadini, Anna (2008) 'The Zoological-Medicinal Material in the Arcadian Library Manuscript'. In: Burnett, C., (ed.), Ibn Baklarish's Book of Simples: Medical Remedies between Three Faiths in Twelfth-Century Spain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp 133-159.

Contadini, Anna (2007) 'The Manuscript as a Whole'. In: Contadini, Anna, (ed.), Arab Painting. Text and Image in Illustrated Arabic Manuscripts. Leiden: Brill, pp 1-17.

Contadini, Anna (2006) 'Middle Eastern Objects'. In: Ajmar-Wollheim, M and Dennis, F, (eds.), At Home in Renaissance Italy. London: V&A Publications, pp 308-321.

Contadini, Anna (2006) 'Le stoffe islamiche nel Rinascimento italiano tra il XV e il XVI secolo'. In: Degl’Innocenti, D, (ed.), Intrecci Mediterranei. Il tessuto come dizionario di rapporti economici, culturali e sociali. Prato: Museo del Tessuto, pp 28-35.

Contadini, Anna (2005) 'Musical Beasts: the Swan-Phoenix in the Ibn Bakhtishu‘ Bestiaries'. In: O’Kane, B., (ed.), The Iconography of Islamic Art – Studies in Honour of Robert Hillenbrand. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp 93-101.

Contadini, Anna (2004) 'The Arts of the Book'. "Mamluk Art", Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition. Leiden: Brill.

Contadini, Anna (2002) 'Travelling pattern: a Qur'anic illumination and its secular source'. In: Canby, S, (ed.), Safavid Art and Architecture. London: British Museum Press, pp 58-66.

Contadini, Anna and Camber, R. and Northover, P. (2002) 'Beasts that Roared: The Pisa Griffin and the New York Lion'. In: Ball, W. and Harrow, L., (eds.), Cairo to Kabul. Afghan and Islamic Studies Presented to Ralph Pinder-Wilson.. London: Melisende, pp 65-83.

Contadini, Anna (2000) 'Ugo Monneret de Villard - A Master of the Italian Orientalist School'. In: Vernoit, S, (ed.), Discovering Islamic Art. Scholars,Collectors and Collections 1850-1950. London: I.B. Tauris (London), pp 156-162.

Contadini, Anna (2000) 'Le arti in Spagna e Marocco nei periodi almoravide e almoade'. In: Cassanelli, R, (ed.), Il Mediterraneo e L'Arte nel Medioevo. Milan: Jaca Books, pp 38-61.

Contadini, Anna (2000) 'Le arti del periodo Fatimide'. In: Cassanelli, R, (ed.), Il Mediterraneo e L'Arte nel Medioevo. Milan: Jaca Book, pp 118-137.

Contadini, Anna (1999) 'Artistic Contacts: Present Scholarship and Future Tasks'. In: Contadini, A. and Burnett, C., (eds.), Islam and the Italian Renaissance. Warburg Institute Colloquia. London: The Warburg Institute (London), pp 1-65.

Contadini, Anna (1999) 'The Cutting Edge: Problems of History, Identification and Technique of Fatimid Rock Crystals'. In: Barrucand, M, (ed.), L’Egypte fatimide. Son art et son histoire: actes du colloque organisé à Paris les 28, 29 et 30 mai 1998. Paris: Presses Universitaires de Paris-Sorbonne, pp 319-329.

Contadini, Anna (1998) 'Poetry on Enamelled Glass: The Palmer Cup in the British Museum'. In: Ward, R, (ed.), Gilded and Enamelled Glass from the Middle East. London: British Museum Press, pp 56-60.

Contadini, Anna (1998) 'Des arts décoratifs florissants'. In: Barrucand, M, (ed.), Trésors fatimides du Caire. Paris: Institute du Monde Arabe, pp 74-84, and entries 23, 26, 54, 55, 82, 85, 87, 89, 100, 155, 156, 161, 203, 205, 208..

Contadini, Anna (1997) 'Murcia'. Enciclopedia dell'Arte Medievale. Roma: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana Treccani, pp 614-615.

Contadini, Anna (1997) 'Bone, Ivory, and Shell: Artifacts of the Byzantine and Islamic Periods'. In: Meyers, Eric M., (ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp 348-350.

Contadini, Anna (1996) 'The Horse in Two Manuscripts of Ibn Bakhtishu`'s Kitab Manafi` al-Hayawan'. In: Alexander, D., (ed.), Furusiyya. Vol. 1 - The horse in the art of the Near East. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: The King Abdulaziz Public Library, pp 142-147.

Contadini, Anna (1995) 'Islamic Ivory Chess Pieces, Draughtsmen and Dice in the Ashmolean Museum'. In: Allan, J, (ed.), Islamic Art in the Ashmolean Museum; Oxford Studies in Islamic Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp 30-51.

Contadini, Anna (1995) 'Contributions on "Four chess pieces (7.49)", "Ewer (7.50)", "Textile with embroidered calligraphic band (7.51)", Incense burner (7.57)" and "Minbar for the Sultan Qa'itbay (7.67)"'. In: Phillips, T., (ed.), Africa - The Art of a Continent. London: Royal Academy of Arts, pp 582-584, 588, 595.

Contadini, Anna (1993) 'La Spagna dal II/VIII al VII/XIII Secolo'. In: Curatola, G, (ed.), Eredita' dell'Islam - Arte islamica in Italia. Milan: Silvana Editoriale, pp 105-132.

Contadini, Anna and Carboni, Stefano (1990) 'An illustrated copy of al-Qazwini's "The Wonders of Creation"'. In: Prideaux, S, (ed.), Sotheby's Art at Auction: 1989-1990. London: Sotheby's Publications, pp 228-233.

Contadini, Anna (1989) 'Simone Assemani, professore di lingue orientali a Padova'. In: Gallotta, A and Marazzi, U, (eds.), La Conoscenza dell'Asia e dell'Africa in Italia nei secoli XVIII e XIX. Volume III. Tomo I. Napoli: Istituto Universitario Orientale, pp 209-245.

Contadini, Anna (1989) '‘Cuoridoro’: tecnica e decorazione di cuoi dorati veneziani e italiani con influssi islamici'. In: Grube, E.J., (ed.), Arte veneziana e arte islamica : atti del Primo simposio internazionale sull'arte veneziana e l'arte islamica. Venice: Edizioni l’Altra Riva, pp 231-251.

Conference Items

Contadini, Anna (2013) 'Seminar on the Pisa Griffin and the Mari-Cha Lion' In: Seminar on the Pisa Griffin and the Mari-Cha Lion, 14 February 2013, SOAS, Khalili Lecture Theatre.

Contadini, Anna (2006) 'The Renaissance and The Ottoman World' In: The Renaissance and The Ottoman World, 26-27 April 2006, The Warburg Institute and SOAS.

Contadini, Anna (2004) 'Arab Painting: Text and Image in Illustrated Arabic Manuscripts' In: Arab Painting: Text and Image in Illustrated Arabic Manuscripts.

Contadini, Anna (1996) 'Istanbul, Ottoman Turkey and Europe' In: Istanbul, Ottoman Turkey and Europe, 21 September 1996, Chester Beatty Library, Dublin.

Contadini, Anna (1996) 'Islam and the Italian Renaissance' In: Islam and the Italian Renaissance, 15-16 March 1996, The Warburg Institute and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Book Reviews

Contadini, Anna (2010) 'Review of Margaret Meserve, Empires of Islam in Renaissance Historical Thought, Harvard University Press, 2008'. Speculum, pp 173-175.

Contadini, Anna (2009) 'Review of Marco Spallanzani, Oriental Rugs in Renaissance Florence. Florence: S.P.E.S., 2007'. The Burlington Magazine, (151) 1270, pp 35.

Contadini, Anna (2001) 'Review of K. Adahl and M. Ahlund, 'Islamic Art Collections. An International Survey''. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, (2) 2, pp 270-271.

Contadini, Anna (1997) 'Review of S. Guthrie, 'Arab Social Life in the Middle Ages. An Illustrated Study', London 1995'. The Burlington Magazine, pp 558.

Contadini, Anna (1997) 'Review of G. Goodwin, 'Sinan. Ottoman Architecture and Its Value Today', London 1993'. The Burlington Magazine, pp 205.

Contadini, Anna (1997) 'Review of Robert Hillenbrand, 'Islamic Architecture. Form, function and meaning', Edinburgh 1994'. The Burlington Magazine, pp 205-206.

Contadini, Anna (1997) 'Review of T. Pérez Higuera, 'Objetos e imagenes de al-Andalus''. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, (60) 1, pp 136-137.

Contadini, Anna (1995) 'Review of Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom, 'The Art and Architecture of Islam 1250-1800', Yale University Press 1994'. The Burlington Magazine, pp 120-121.

Contadini, Anna (1994) 'Review of Dalu Jones (ed.), 'Il Teatro delle Acque', Rome, 1992'. The Burlington Magazine, pp 113-114.


Contadini, Anna (2017) 'Celebrating Art and Music - The SOAS Collections. Centenary Exhibition, Brunei Gallery, SOAS, 2017'.

Contadini, Anna (2014) 'The Arts of Southeast Asia from the SOAS Collections'.

Contadini, Anna (2012) 'Gifts of Recognition: Modern and Contemporary Art from the SOAS Collections'.

Contadini, Anna (2007) 'At Home in Renaissance Italy'.

Contadini, Anna (2007) 'Objects of Instruction: Treasures of the School of Oriental and African Studies'.

Contadini, Anna (2005) 'Intrecci Mediterranei'.

Contadini, Anna (1998) 'Trésors fatimides du Caire'.

Contadini, Anna (1995) 'The Ottoman World and Europe'.

Contadini, Anna (1993) 'Rock Crystal Objects from the V&A Collection'.

Contadini, Anna (1993) 'Eredità dell'Islam. Arte Islamica in Italia'.


Contadini, Anna (2014) 'Griffon de Pise'.


This list was last generated on Monday, 20th August 2018, 07:39 Europe/London.