General View of the Shah-i Zindah Mosque (Evening Photo). Samarkand


This remarkable view, taken in the light of the setting sun, shows the middle group of mausolea in the Shah-i Zindah necropolis, located at the outskirts of Samarkand. Built on an ancient burial ground, Shah-i Zindah (Persian for “living king”) is revered as a memorial to Kusam-ibn-Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. From left to right are seen the Octagonal Mausoleum, the Shirin Bika Aga Mausoleum, the Shadi Mulk Aga Mausoleum, the Emir Zade Mausoleum, and the double domes of the Kazy-Zade Rumi Mausoleum, built in 1437 by Ulugh Beg, the astronomer king and grandson of Tamerlane (Timur). The photograph shows remnants of the ceramic tile decoration (including patterned script), much of which has since been restored. In the background are the snow-covered peaks of the Turkestan Range to the southeast. The image is by Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944), who used a special color photography process to create a visual record of the Russian Empire in the early 20th century. Some of Prokudin-Gorskii’s photographs date from about 1905, but the bulk of his work is from between 1909 and 1915, when, with the support of Tsar Nicholas II and the Ministry of Transportation, he undertook extended trips through many different parts of the empire. In 1911 he made two trips to an area of Central Asia then known as Turkestan (present-day Uzbekistan and neighboring states), where he photographed monuments of Islamic art.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Общий вид мечети Шах–Зинде (вечерний снимок). Самарканд

Type of Item

Physical Description

Glass negative (presented as a digital color composite)


  • Prokudin-Gorskii’s photographic work survives primarily in two forms: 1,901 black-and-white triple-frame glass plate negatives, made with color separation filters, which Prokudin-Gorskii used to make color prints and lantern slides; and 12 albums of sepia-tone prints, made from the glass negatives, which Prokudin-Gorskii compiled as a record of his travels and studies. The Library of Congress purchased the glass plate negatives and the albums from the Prokudin-Gorskii family in 1948. In 2004, the Library of Congress had digital color composites made from all the surviving glass negatives using a software algorithm to automatically align the color components. As with most historical photographs, title and subject identifications are corrected and enhanced through new research. Current information on the collection is at

Last updated: September 30, 2016