Antiquities of Samarkand. Tomb of the Saint Kusam-ibn-Abbas (Shah-i Zindah) and Adjacent Mausoleums. Mausoleum of Abu Tengi. Sample of Interior Details


This watercolor of ceramic ornamentation on the interior 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 mausoleum was built around 1380 by a patron whose identity is not known. It is often referred to by the name of its master builder, Usto Ali Nesefi. The structure’s decorative ceramic work includes glazed bands of Arabic script in both Kufic and Thuluth forms, as well as polychrome majolica tiles in colors ranging from deep blue and green to yellow, red, and turquoise. The ornamental band shown here has intersecting linear patterns that link floral motifs resembling arabesques. Such watercolor sketches convey 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 святого Куссама ибни Абасса (Шах-Зиндэ) и мавзолеи при ней. Мавзолей Эмира Абу Тенги. Образцы внутренней отделки

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 drawing : watercolor


  • Illustration in: Turkestan Album, Archaeological Part, 1871-1872, part 1, volume 1, plate 35.

Last updated: September 30, 2016