Antiquities of Samarkand. Tomb of Saint Kusam-ibn-Abbas (Shah-i Zindah) and Adjacent Mausoleums. Tiles on the Exterior of the Mausoleum


This watercolor of facade ornaments on the Emir-Zade 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 primary compilers for the visual material were Aleksandr L. Kun, an Orientalist attached to the army, and Nikolai V. Bogaevskii, a military engineer. They devoted special attention to Samarkand’s Islamic architecture, such as 14th- and 15th-century monuments from the reign of Tamerlane and his successors. Built on the site of an ancient settlement known as Afrosiab, Shah-i Zindah (Persian for “living king”) is revered as a memorial to Kusam-ibn-Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. The Emir-Zade mausoleum was built in 1386 by a member of Tamerlane’s court. Despite losses to its polychrome ornament, the facade remains a major example of the accomplishments of Central Asian decorative art. Shown here are ceramic rosettes that form vertical decorative bands on either side of the facade arch. Such watercolor sketches convey color information unavailable in the photography of that period. Even so, the sketch does not fully convey the intricacy of the original design.

Publication Information

Saint Petersburg, Russia

Title in Original Language

Самаркандския древности. Гробница святого Куссама ибни Абасса (Шах-Зиндэ) и мавзолеи при ней. Изразцы на наружном фасаде мавзолея

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 drawing : watercolor


  • Illustration in: Turkestan Album, Archaeological Part, 1871-1872, part 1, volume 1, plate 26.

Last updated: September 30, 2016