Detail of a Wall in Ulugh Beg (Interior). Samarkand


In the town center in Samarkand is the Registan complex, composed of three major examples of the madrasah (religious school). The oldest madrasah on Registan Square is named after the astronomer king Ulugh Beg (1393?–1449; grandson of Timur), who built it in 1417–20. During Ulugh Beg’s reign some 100 students attended this leading center of Islamic education. The ceramic panels shown here are from the courtyard niche of the great iwan arch. The delicate polychrome work includes faience tiles with intricate botanical figures. These are set within geometric patterns of monochrome tiles integrated with words in block Kufic script from the Kalima, 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 parts of the empire. In 1911 he traveled to a region of Central Asia then known as Turkestan (present-day Uzbekistan and neighboring states), where he photographed many of the monuments of Samarkand’s Islamic architecture.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Деталь стены Улук-Бек (внутри). 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

Last updated: September 30, 2016