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 a circular ceramic ornament on the facade 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 ceramic work includes polychrome majolica tiles in geometric patterns, as well as vertical bands of Arabic script in both Kufic and Thuluth forms. The ornament shown here combines floral motifs with intersecting geometric elements that create eight-pointed star patterns, perhaps symbolizing the eight Shiite imams. (Another eight-pointed star pattern on the facade of this mausoleum contains the names of the imams in block Kufic script.) The ornament’s outer band consists of paired lozenges separated by eight circle figures.

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