Antiquities of Samarkand. Madrasah of Ulugh Beg. Main Facade (Eastern). Inscription above the Entry to the Inner Courtyard


This photograph of a detail of the east facade of the Ulugh Beg 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 oldest extant madrasah on Registan Square is named after the scholar-king and grandson of Timur, Ulugh Beg (1393?-1449), who built it in 1417-20. It was long considered a leading center of Islamic education. Shown here is a ceramic detail from the wall within the niche of the great iwan (vaulted hall, walled on three sides, with one end open) arch containing the entrance to the madrasah. Despite damage to the facade, this fragment, located above one of the main portals, displays rich polychrome ceramic ornamentation, including faience work. Such ornaments were often composed of complex geometric figures such as this extraordinarily intricate 12-pointed star within a star, which appears to include script at the edge of the circle contained by the outer star. The surrounding surface reveals traces of floral and tendril motifs.

Subject Date

Publication Information

Saint Petersburg, Russia


Title in Original Language

Самаркандския древности. Медрессэ Улуг-Бек. Главный фасад (восточный). Надпись над входною дверью во внутрений двор

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 photographic print : albumen


  • Illustration in: Turkestan Album, Archaeological Part, 1871-1872, part 1, volume 2, plate 109.

Last updated: September 30, 2016