Antiquities of Samarkand. Tomb of the Saint Kusam-ibn-Abbas (Shah-i Zindah) and Adjacent Mausoleums. Mausoleum of Khodzha Akhmed. Sections of Inscriptions on the Front Facade


This watercolor of a facade detail of the Khodzha Akhmed 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 (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. Shah-i Zindah (Persian for “living king”) is revered as a memorial to Kussam-ibn-Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. The Khodzha Akhmed Mausoleum was built in the 1360s, presumably for a local spiritual leader. Located at the end of the necropolis passageway in the northern cluster of shrines, this partially damaged monument displays vibrant polychrome ceramic work with floral, geometric, and inscriptional patterns. The facade arch, or peshtak, is flanked by glazed terra-cotta columns and inscription bands carved in elaborate geometric forms. This sketch from the left side of the arch shows a fragment composed of patterned Kufic letters with an intertwining tendril motif. Although simplified, such watercolor sketches conveyed color information unavailable in the photography of that period.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Saint Petersburg, Russia


Title in Original Language

Самаркандския древности. Гробница святаго Куссама ибни Абасса (Шах-Зиндэ) и мавзолеи при ней. Мавзолей Ахмет-Ходжи. Части надписей на фасаде

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 drawing : watercolor


  • Illustration in: Turkestan Album, Archaeological Part, 1871-1872, part 1, volume 1, plate 49.

Last updated: September 30, 2016