Antiquities of Samarkand. Tomb of the Saint Kusam-ibn-Abbas (Shah-i Zindah) and Adjacent Mausoleums. Masoleum of Abu Tengi. Details on the External Arched-Niche Panel (Bottom)


This watercolor sketch of a ceramic panel in the main arch niche 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 Mohammed. Although the patron of this mausoleum (built around 1380) is unknown, it is often named after its master builder, Usto Ali Nesefi. Despite losses to the façade, surviving parts of the ornamentation reveal one of the most elaborate decorative programs in the entire necropolis. Its ceramic work includes polychrome majolica tiles in geometric patterns, bands of Arabic inscriptions and faience panels. This faience panel, located in the lower part of the left side of the arch niche, is composed of floral patterns grouped around a pointed trefoil figure with foliate cartouches. Although the sketch does not fully convey the intricacy of the tendril motif in the original, it provided color information unavailable in the photography of that period.

Publication Information

Saint Petersburg, Russia

Title in Original Language

Самаркандския древности. Гробница святаго Куссама ибни Абасса (Шах-Зиндэ) и мавзолеи при ней. Мавзолей Эмира Абу-Тенги. Отделка щека входной ниши (низ)

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 drawing : watercolor


  • Illustration in: Turkestan Album, Archaeological Part, 1871-1872, part 1, volume 1, plate 36.

Last updated: September 30, 2016