Antiquities of Samarkand. Tomb of the Saint Kusam-ibn-Abbas (Shah-i Zindah) and Adjacent Mausoleums. Mausoleum of Sha Arap. Section of Wall Detail


This watercolor sketch shows a decorative detail from the northeast mausoleum in the northern cluster of shrines at the Shah-i Zindah necropolis (Samarkand, Uzbekistan). The sketch was included in the archeological part of Turkestan Album, a six-volume survey 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. Of particular note is Shah-i Zindah (Persian for “living king”), built on the elevated site of an ancient settlement known as Afrosiab and revered as a memorial to Kusam-ibn-Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. The patron of this mausoleum has not been conclusively identified, but it was constructed in 1360-61, most likely for a maiden of noble birth. The watercolor is a simplified rendition of polychrome ceramic work on the inner wall of the facade arch, or peshtak. As in much of Islamic art, the design is a complex interplay of geometric figures and polygonal forms created by intersecting lines. This fragment displays a pattern of interlocking five-pointed stars with a 12-lobed pinwheel motif in the center. The primary design is framed by a dodecagon.

Publication Information

Saint Petersburg, Russia

Title in Original Language

Самаркандския древности. Гробница святаго Куссама ибни Абасса (Шах-Зиндэ) и мавзолеи при ней. Мавзолей Ша-Арап. Часть отделки стены

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 drawing : watercolor


  • Illustration in: Turkestan Album, Archaeological Part, 1871-1872, part 1, volume 1, plate 60.

Last updated: September 30, 2016