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


This watercolor sketch shows a ceramic detail from the northeastern 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. Although the patron of this mausoleum has not been conclusively identified, it was built in 1360-61, most likely for a maiden of noble birth. Despite major damage (probably due to an earthquake), the mausoleum has preserved rich polychrome ceramic ornamentation in floral, geometric, and inscriptional forms. This sketch shows a tendril pattern on a ceramic tile placed within an upper vault structure know as mocárabe--also referred to as a “honeycomb” or “stalactite” vault because of the appearance of its suspended ornamental elements.

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 сталоктитнаго украшения внутри мавзолея

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 drawing : watercolor


  • Illustration in: Turkestan Album, Archaeological Part, 1871-1872, part 1, volume 1, plate 59.

Last updated: September 30, 2016