Between 2013 and 2015 the Ashmolean Museum was able analyze and conserve one of the largest and most handsome vessels in its renowned Islamic art collection. An accomplished example of early 13th century Persian lusterware and part of Sir Alan Barlow’s bequest, the salver had an unusually deformed profile and uneven wear that pointed at a number of past interventions. Some of these had already been uncovered in 2008 when the object was prepared for reinstallation in the revamped Ashmolean. However it was only when examined more closely by our team and collaborators from Cranfield University, that the extent and extraordinary nature of its “restoration” could be assessed. This talk will present aspects of this extensive research effort. It will also reflect on the implications of modern refurbishments in relation to thorny issue of the faking and forging of Islamic ceramics in the early 20th century, when collecting Islamic decorative arts was at its peak in Europe.
Dr Francesca Leoni has been Curator of Islamic Art at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford, since 2011, after holding curatorial and research 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 primary area of studies is Islamic illustrated and illuminated manuscripts. In addition to the forthcoming volume Islamic Occultism in Theory and Practice (coedited with Liana Saif, Matthew Melvin-Koushki, and Farouk Yahya), her books include the exhibition catalogue Power and Protection: Islamic Art and the Supernatural (with Pierre Lory and Christiane Gruber, Oxford, 2016), Eros and Sexuality in Islamic Art (co-edited with Mika Natif, 2013), and Light of the Sufis: The Mystical Arts of Islam (co-authored with Ladan Akbarnia, 2010).