Antiquities of Samarkand. Tomb of the Saint Kusam-ibn-Abbas (Shah-i Zindah) and Adjacent Mausoleums. Mausoleum of Emir Abu Tengi. Column Capital


This photograph of the Usto Ali mausoleum at the Shah-i Zindah necropolis in Samarkand is from the archeological part of Turkestan Album. The six-volume photographic survey was produced in 1871-72 under the patronage of General Konstantin P. von Kaufman, the first governor-general, in 1867-82, of Turkestan, as the Russian Empire’s Central Asian territories were called. The album devotes special attention to Samarkand’s Islamic architecture, such as 14th- and 15th-century monuments from the reign of Tamerlane and his successors. Shah-i Zindah (Persian for “living king”) is revered as a memorial to Kusam-ibn-Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. The patron of this mausoleum (built around 1380) is unknown. The mausoleum is often referred to by the name of its master builder, Usto Ali Nesefi. Much of the facade has suffered severe losses, but the surviving parts of the ornamentation reveal one of the most elaborate decorative programs in the entire necropolis. The ceramic work includes polychrome majolica tiles in geometric and botanical patterns, faience panels, Arabic inscriptions, and ornamental columns flanking the entrance arch. The capital of the ceramic column shown here consists of an inverted pointed trefoil, while the column itself displays intertwined floral motifs. The basic colors of the façade are dark blue and turquoise.

Subject Date

Publication Information

Saint Petersburg, Russia

Title in Original Language

Самаркандския древности. Гробница святого Куссама ибни Абасса (Шах-Зиндэ) и мавзолеи при нем. Мавзолей Эмира Абу-Тенги. Капитель колонны

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 photographic print : albumen


  • Illustration in: Turkestan Album, Archaeological Part, 1871-1872, part 1, volume 1, plate 31.

Last updated: September 30, 2016