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In: Shahnama Studies II


A large, undated paper talisman belonging to the Nasser D. Khalili Collection was among the most enigmatic objects on display in the exhibition Power and Protection: Islamic Art and the Supernatural (Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford, 20 October 2016–15 January 2017). Although unusual, this object is not unique and belongs to a group of documents attested in the late Ottoman world that share several features. First, they are all in the same medium, paper, available in various formats. Second, they all show signs of wear and tear, which are not simply a mark of their age or their support’s fragility but also reflect various forms of physical interaction—from touching, rubbing, and, possibly, kissing, to folding and rolling for storage purposes and easy carrying. Third, they all exhibit an impressive variety of imprinted motifs, featuring texts, images, and diagrams, whose content ranges from the devotional to the magical. The purpose of this article is to establish the context of production of the Khalili talisman through a detailed analysis of its material qualities and content. The broad nature of the texts and images available on it ultimately provides the opportunity to reflect on the limited usefulness of clear-cut categories (e.g., sacred/profane, orthodox/heterodox, religious/folkloric, and Sunni/Shiʿi) when trying to understand and position Islamic material evidence connected to occult practices.

In: Islamicate Occult Sciences in Theory and Practice
In: Islamicate Occult Sciences in Theory and Practice
Islamicate Occult Sciences in Theory and Practice brings together the latest research on Islamic occult sciences from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, namely intellectual history, manuscript studies and material culture. Its aim is not only to showcase the range of pioneering work that is currently being done in these areas, but also to provide a model for closer interaction amongst the disciplines constituting this burgeoning field of study. Furthermore, the book provides the rare opportunity to bridge the gap on an institutional level by bringing the academic and curatorial spheres into dialogue.

Contributors include: Charles Burnett, Jean-Charles Coulon, Maryam Ekhtiar, Noah Gardiner, Christiane Gruber, Bink Hallum, Francesca Leoni, Matthew Melvin-Koushki, Michael Noble, Rachel Parikh, Liana Saif, Maria Subtelny, Farouk Yahya, and Travis Zadeh.


In 2014 the Ashmolean Museum conserved and examined one of the largest and most handsome ceramic vessels in its renowned Islamic art collection. An accomplished example of early thirteenth-century Persian lusterware from the bequest of Sir Alan Barlow, 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 analyzed by a team of inhouse specialists and scientists from Cranfield University and the Research Laboratory for Archaeology at the University of Oxford, that the extraordinary nature of its “restoration” could be assessed. This article presents the results of this collaborative effort and contributes important evidence to the thorny issue of the faking and forging of Islamic ceramics in the early twentiethc century, when collecting Islamic decorative arts was at its peak.

In: Muqarnas Online