Rediscovered Heritage highlights the treasures of the world’s cultural patrimony that have sunken into oblivion and been rescued thanks to restoration or archival and museum preservation. In a visual journey across time and space, the audience is invited to re-discover historical testimonies of the evolution and metamorphosis of art's languages through the ages. Once buried, decayed, and often neglected, these historical sites, archeological vestiges, or artistic masterpieces are visually experienced in their original splendor and historical context.

Timurid miniatures

IkonoTV presents a fine selection of the Timurid miniature heritage.

By bringing craftsmen from different conquered lands to his capital in Samarqand, Timur initiated one of the most brilliant periods in Islamic art. Timurid art and architecture provided inspiration to lands stretching from Anatolia to India. Though Timur’s extensive empire itself was relatively short-lived, his descendants continued to rule over Transoxiana as leading patrons of Islamic art.

The technical skill of the artist is now staggering. It embraces the preparation of the surface, the application of paint, the purity of colour, the balancing of hues, the effects of crescendo and diminuendo in the composition and in the distribution of colour, and the pinpoint accuracy of the smallest detail. Everything seems to be calculated and these images are demanding a deep perceptive investment from the viewer. The Islamic miniature painting reached here its aesthetical peak.

The Timurids were the final great dynasty to emerge from the Central Asian steppe. In 1370, the eponymous founder, Timur (Tamerlane), who belonged to a Turkish tribe settled in Transoxiana, became master of this province and established Samarqand as his capital. Within thirty-five years, he subjugated all of Central Asia, greater Iran, and Iraq, as well as parts of southern Russia and the Indian subcontinent. The vast empire he carved proved to be difficult to keep; his son and successor, Shahrukh (r. 1405–47), barely managed to maintain the empire’s boundaries, and subsequent Timurid princes sought to establish their own kingdoms, weakening the empire with internal strife. Eventually only Khorasan and Transoxiana remained Timurid, and during the remaining years of the dynasty, these were ruled by separate branches of the Timurid family.


The Wonders of the Creation and the Curiosities of Existance by Zakariya ‘Ibn Al-Qazwini

ikonoTV presents, as part of our Rediscovered Heritage program, miniatures from the book “The Wonders of the Creation and the Curiosities of Existence” (Kitab Aja’ib al-makhluqat wa Gharaib al-Mawjudat) written and illustrated by Abu Yahya Zakariya ibn Muhammad ibn Mahmud-al-Qazwini (ca. 1203 – 1283 CE), also known as Zakariya’ibn al-Qazwini. Compiled in the middle 1200s in Iran or Iraq, this book is definitely one of the most important natural history texts of the medieval Islamic world. Originally it is divided into two sections, focusing respectively on celestial phenomena, including the planet, stars, and angels, and the terrestrial world, including geography, ethnography, zoology, and botany.

Al-Qazwini was born in the city of Qazwin in Persia under Seljuq-Rule. He was an universal scholar, focused on historical, geographical and encyclopedic researches. He received much of his education in Baghdad, the cultural center of the region with many other scholars and renowned universities. Al-Qazwini wrote, as it was common in Baghdad at the time, most of his works in Arabic. But some of his works have been translated in later time into Persian language. Al-Qazwini was primarily a compiler of information from different authors, both ancient and medieval, to which he added a few original observations of his own.

The selected works shown in the ikono productions are from the 14th Century from the possession of the Institute of Oriental Studies in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Originally it contains a plurality of illustrations of constellations, mythical figures, and various plants and animals. IkonoTV presents a selection of these illustrations, as individual motifs and also embedded into the original paper and text configuration. The idea, showing the motifs as individual elements, out of the context, was conceived to enhance the details and to offer the audience a clear perception of them. Nevertheless, each motif will be contextualized at the end of the presentation in its original position on paper.

This special series of shows is a further contribution to represent Islamic art and sciences on ikonoTV.

Treasures of the Achaemenid Empire

ikono has taken great joy in rediscovering the rich artistic and architectural treasures of the Achaemenid Empire:

The Achaemenids are named after Achaimenes, the legendary leader of the great Persian migration at 701 B.C., where the Kings of the Achaemenid dynasty were generous sponsors of Art and Architecture. Confronted with a great variety of building and decoration motives, the formerly nomadic Persians established splendid cities and impressive art objects. This period allowed for an independent character of Achaemenid art to slowly develop. The decoration motifs of the Elamites served as a role model here, and heraldic motives, including lions, griffins and crowned mythical creatures (half animal, half person) moved into the decorative repertoire.  Achaemenids architecture is based on Greek and Egyptian traditions. In turn the architecture ornamentations show clear influences of the Mesopotamian Kingdom of Babylon.

All of these different influences manifest themselves in the capital of Persepolis and in the palaces in Susa and Pasargadai. Slowly but surely the result became a heterogeneous culture of art and architecture, which was parallel to the expansion of the kingdom. Today, this culture continues to exert a great influence on Iranian contemporary art.

Treasures of Ancient Persia

The Treasures of Ancient Persia show impressing art objects from the pre-islamic Era of the Iranian Cultural region. Works from the Achaemenid, Sassanian and Parthian Dynasties includes valuable style components about this magnificient  Art.

When Reza Shah, the first Pahlavi shah, introduced the name “Iran” instead of “Persia”, he was not simply asking to change the name of a country. “Iran” had actually been the name for the whole area since pre-Islamic times, while “Persia” was only a name used for its southwestern parts and “Persian” referred to Iran’s main language. The name Persia for the region has already been used by the ancient Greeks and the word “Iran” was used especially in the empires that ruled for a few centuries before the Islamic conquest of Iran in the seventh century, but also after the territory of today’s Iran was divided among several states.

The advent of the Islamic era in Iranian culture did not a break with the region’s pre-Islamic history though. This is noticeable both in the literature (the Iranian national epic, Book of Kings, “Shahname”), as well as in architecture (Ivane and grave towers) and the decorative arts (architectural ornaments and decorative motifs on bowls, tiles and stucco panels).

The presentation of pre-Islamic art from Iran thus also serves the understanding of a peculiar reminder culture and identification of the Iranian population, which has always been strong, especially since the rulership of the Samanids and the The Great Seljuq Empire. This handing down of Parthian, Sassanid and Achaemenian decorative motifs and architectural elements still influences the artistic creations in Iran today.

Embedded in the very abstract looking Islamic art it serves your own historical identity and conscious separation from the Arab hegemony that has felt obligatoire by a prophetic calling to Islam to not only spread Islam but also manage the newly acquired territories and to Arabize them. This becomes clear when looking at the Umayyad Caliphate rule in the Iranian cultural regions Pars and Khorasan.

The Umayyad Caliphate, founded by Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan, long-time governor of Syria, after the end of the First Muslim Civil War in 661, conquered 5.79 million square miles (15,000,000 km2) and built the largest empire the world had ever seen, and the fifth largest to ever exist until today. But the constant campaigning exhausted the resources of the state. The Umayyads, weakened by the Third Muslim Civil War of 744–747, were toppled by the Abbasid Revolution in 750. A branch of the family fled across North Africa to Al-Andalus, where they established the Caliphate of Córdoba, which lasted until 1031 before falling.

For more information please follow the link
Professor Ahmad Ashraf: Iranian Identity in the pre-Islamic Era

Triumphal procession of Maximilian I. at Albertina, Vienna

Painted by Albrecht Altdorfer (around 1480-1538) and his workshop between 1512 and 1515, the triumphal frieze of Maximilian I. of Habsburg (1459-1519) is an imaginary parade of the most important encounters, events and achievements of the emperor’s life. The frieze has been comissioned by Maximilian I. himself, who was a great patron for the arts of his time. Originally more than 100 meters long, only the second part of the precious vellum paintings has been preserved. Today the elaborately restored frieze is part of the collection of the Viennese museum Albertina, which in 2012 has been presenting the scenes for the first time as continuous series due to a particular exhibition design.

ikono is very happy to having the opportunity of showcasing this gem of Northern alpine Renaissance painting. In close collaboration with the Albertina we produced a 15 minutes journey through the life of the Habsburg emperor, focusing on the details and refinements of Altdorfer’s monumental masterpiece.

Please read the introduction by Dr. Eva Michel, curator at the Albertina’s Graphic Art Collection, for getting more information on this unique rediscovered heritage, and follow the link for gaining an overview over the frieze’s single scenes: Altdorfer’s triumphal procession of Maximilian I., Contents of sheets





Pen drawings with watercolor and gouache, gold and silver heightening, on vellum;

c. 45 x 95 cm each (total length of surviving sheets 49 – 109, incl. the authors’ page, when lined up as a painted frieze: 53.8 m)

Vienna, Albertina, Inv. 25205 – 25263

By Eva Michel


The Triumphal Procession was commissioned by Maximilian I of Habsburg (1459 – 1519), elected emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. The cycle of originally 109 large-format colored pen-drawings was executed in 1512 – 1515 by the famous German artist Albrecht Altdorfer and his workshop as a frieze with a total length of more than 100 meters. Unlike the woodcut version of the Triumph Procession published from 1516 onwards, the exquisite paintings on costly parchment were certainly intended as an exclusive display copy for the emperor’s own personal use.

This outstanding work exists only as a fragment today. The original first part (sheets 1 to 48) of the Triumphal Procession has been lost, nothing is known of its fate or whereabouts; only a transcript of Maximilian’s written concept of 1512 and two later copies allow it to be reconstructed. The second part – sheets 49 to 109, measuring about 45 by 95 centimetres each – has survived and is preserved in the Albertina Museum in Vienna (Austria), where it was the focus of the exhibition “Emperor Maximilian I. and the Age of Dürer” (September 2012 to January 2013).

The subject of the Triumph dates back to antiquity and to the practice of staging processions to mark the ceremonial entry of victorious Roman generals. It was popularized via humanist literary descriptions and their adaptations during the Italian Renaissance. Maximilian’s Triumphal Procession reveals a new conception of the ancient model, drawing its rhetoric authority into the orbit of imperial aims. The pageant depicted never actually took place, nor does it mark any one victory in the field. It is rather an idealized review of the most important persons and events of the Maximilian’s life, intended to link himself and the House of Habsburg to prestigious Roman origins, to glorify the emperor during his lifetime and to keep his memory alive for all eternity. It displays family and lineage, military campaigns, private pastimes such as jousting, hunting, and music-making, and imperial demonstrations of power in the form of coats of arms and standards.  The protagonists are not dressed up in classical garb, but the parade is made up of contemporary lansquenets and knights. The classical elements are thus partly overshadowed by late-medieval entry pageantry and references to Maximilian’s personality and life. The sequence of the sheets and the reading direction run from right to left, against the direction of the procession. This creates the effect of the participants of the Triumphal Procession encountering the viewer moving in the opposite direction.

The beginning of that part of the program that has been preserved in the Albertina marks the depiction of Maximilian’s marriage to Mary of Burgundy in Ghent on 19 August 1477. The golden chariot bearing symbols of the cities and castles is followed by a magnificent display of spectacular battle scenes on painted banners and by chariots laden with trophies and war booty. This fictional showcasing of Maximilian’s military prowess leads to the imperial artillery with its state-of-the-art cannons and artillery pieces and then to the carriages laden with the emperor’s sacred and secular treasures, displayed here to prove that the emperor had riches beyond imagining. The battlefield feats are followed by historic key events in Maximilian’s life, such as the marriage of his son Philip the Fair to Joanna of Castile in 1496. A series of statues of Maximilian’s ancestors underscores his noble descent. They are followed in turn by the prisoners of war, the antique bearers of victory, and the trumpeters and heralds announcing the arrival of Maximilian’s mother on her chariot. The emperor himself, clad in full regalia with crown, scepter, and palm frond (a traditional symbol of victory), is enthroned on a triumphal chariot drawn by twelve white horses. Before him are his first wife, Mary of Burgundy, and their daughter Margaret, and seated in front of them are his son Philip with Joanna and their children. This depiction of the emperor’s immediate family sharing the same chariot was intended to stress the importance that he himself attached to family and to the perpetuation of the Habsburg Dynasty. Following the imperial chariot in order of rank are numerous princes, counts, lords, knights, and lansquenets, a wagon fort and the “kalikutischen Leut,” here represented by the Indians, as an allusion to Maximilian’s hegemonic claims to territories outside Europe. The Baggage Section —a motley group of ordinary men, women, and children— follows the army. Apart from the landscape backdrop to one part of the Baggage Section, the protagonists march against the neutral ground of unpainted parchment. This forces us to focus our attention on the figures and scenes themselves, whose purpose, being cut off from time and place, is to glorify Maximilian in the collective memory.

The impressive length of Maximilian’s purely imaginary Triumphal Procession at over 100 meters raises the question of its original presentation and storage: The parchments seem too small-scale in terms of their imagery for a mural decoration, and too well preserved to have been hung for a long period. Diagonal folds and evidence of rubbing on the surfaces of the parchments seem to have been caused by the rolling them up, which fits perfectly to the rhetoric effect of classical rotuli, thus using an antiquizing format for the antiquizing content. The parchment band could have been used in the manner of a scroll that is viewed manually, with one hand unrolling, and the other rolling up, according to similar principles as prayer scrolls and the Torah. The exquisitness and sensitivity of the material, as well as its dimensions, meant, that the miniature Triumphal Procession – in contrast to the later woodcut version – remained a magnificent treasure, reserved only for the emperor and a small group of selected courtiers. The Triumphal Procession, which in reality never took place, is a celebration of Maximilian’s life and works and thus became a triumph over death and time.

For more information, please consult the catalogue of the exhibition “Emperor Maximilian I. and the Age of Dürer”, ed. by Eva Michel and Maria-Luise Sternath, Albertina, Prestel Verlag, Munich 2012.