Antiquities of Samarkand. Inner Courtyard of the Shir Dar Madrasah (Western Side). Ornamentation Carved into the Marble Slab


This photograph of the interior courtyard at the Shir Dar Madrasah in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) 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 (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 Timur (Tamerlane) and his successors. In the center of Samarkand is the Registan ensemble, composed of three major examples of a madrasah (religious school). The second madrasah in the ensemble, the Shir Dar, was built in 1619-36, during the Astrakhanid dynasty. Despite losses over the centuries, it remains one of the most lavishly ornamented monuments in Central Asia. This view shows a carved marble panel set within the main arch niche of the west wall. With remarkable detail, the panel represents the niche with its curved vault composed in a manner known as mocárabe--also referred to as a “stalactite” vault because of the appearance of the suspended decorative elements. The actual niche, located not far from the panel, was surfaced in polychrome ceramic tiles. The panel also displays elaborate floral and geometric patterns characteristic of ceramic decoration.

Subject Date

Publication Information

Saint Petersburg, Russia

Title in Original Language

Самаркандския древности. Медресэ Шир Дар внутренний двор (западная сторона.) Украшение высечное в мраморной плите внутри

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 photographic print : albumen


  • Illustration in: Turkestan Album, Archaeological Part, 1871-1872, part 1, volume 2, plate 91.

Last updated: September 30, 2016