Tillia Kari from Registan Square. Samarkand


In the center of Samarkand is the Registan complex, consisting of three madrasah (religious schools). The third of these, the Tillia Kari Madrasah, was built in 1646–60 on the site of a former caravansarai. Its basic plan is formed by a rectangular courtyard, bounded by arcades that contain rooms for scholars. Although much damaged, the facades still show intricate ceramic decoration in geometric and botanical motifs, as well as panels with Perso-Arabic inscriptions above the door of each cell. The corner minaret displays geometric tile patterns with block Kufic script forming words from the Kalima, the basis of the Shahada, or Islamic declaration of faith. The image is by Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944), who used a special color photography process to create a visual record of the Russian Empire in the early 20th century. Some of Prokudin-Gorskii’s photographs date from about 1905, but the bulk of his work is from between 1909 and 1915, when, with the support of Tsar Nicholas II and the Ministry of Transportation, he undertook extended trips through many different parts of the empire. Prokudin-Gorskii was particularly interested in recently acquired territories of the Russian Empire such as Turkestan, which he visited on a number of occasions. During a trip in 1911 he gave special attention to the Islamic architecture of Samarkand (present-day Uzbekistan).

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Тилля-Кари с площади Регистана. Самарканд

Type of Item

Physical Description

Glass negative (presented as a digital color composite)


  • Prokudin-Gorskii’s photographic work survives primarily in two forms: 1,901 black-and-white triple-frame glass plate negatives, made with color separation filters, which Prokudin-Gorskii used to make color prints and lantern slides; and 12 albums of sepia-tone prints, made from the glass negatives, which Prokudin-Gorskii compiled as a record of his travels and studies. The Library of Congress purchased the glass plate negatives and the albums from the Prokudin-Gorskii family in 1948. In 2004, the Library of Congress had digital color composites made from all the surviving glass negatives using a software algorithm to automatically align the color components. As with most historical photographs, title and subject identifications are corrected and enhanced through new research. Current information on the collection is at http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/prok/.

Last updated: September 30, 2016