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


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 patterns, faience panels, and bands of Arabic inscriptions in both Kufic and Thuluth forms. This ornamental array is unified by interlocking bands (shown here on the right side of the facade) that not only frame the various elements but are themselves an important component of the general artistic design.

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. Правая сторона фасада

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 photographic print : albumen


  • Illustration in: Turkestan Album, Archaeological Part, 1871-1872, part 1, volume 1, plate 32.

Last updated: September 30, 2016