Antiquities of Samarkand. Tomb of the Saint Kusam-ibn-Abbas (Shah-i Zindah) and Adjacent Mausoleums. Mausoleum of Emir Assad. Tiles from Varying Sections of the Mausoleum of Emir Assad


These watercolor sketches of ceramic ornamentation at an unidentified mausoleum in the Shah-i Zindah necropolis in Samarkand are 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 devoted special attention to Samarkand’s Islamic architecture, such as 14th- and 15th-century monuments from the reign of Tamerlane and his successors. Of particular note is Shah-i Zindah (Persian for “living king”), revered as a memorial to Kusam-ibn-Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. The three fragments shown here belong to an unnamed mausoleum whose basic structure and much of its main facade collapsed. Nonetheless, surviving ceramic work on the facade reveals a decorative approach similar to that of the nearby Usto Ali mausoleum (circa 1380). On the left is part of an ornamental band formed by lotus images framed with interlocking tendrils. In the center is a majolica fragment with elevated lines in a geometric crossing pattern. On the right is a segment of a polychrome band consisting of a sacred inscription in the Thuluth (cursive) Arabic script set in a delicate intertwining pattern of tendrils and leaves.

Publication Information

Saint Petersburg, Russia


Title in Original Language

Самаркандския древности. Гробница святого Куссама ибни Абасса (Шах-Зиндэ) и мавзолеи при нем. Мавзолей Эмира Ассада. Изразцы с разных частей мавзолея Эмира Ассада

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 drawing : watercolor


  • Illustration in: Turkestan Album, Archaeological Part, 1871-1872, part 1, volume 1, plate 38.

Last updated: September 30, 2016