Detail of Shir-Dar (inside, to the Right of the Entrance). Samarkand


In the center of Samarkand is the Registan complex, consisting of three madrasah (religious schools). The second madrasah is the Shir-Dar, built in 1619–36 during the Bukhara Astrakhanid dynasty. Rectangular in plan, the two-story arcaded structure contained scholars’ cells along an interior courtyard. This view shows the remarkable ceramic decoration on the courtyard side of the main iwan arch. Panels of Perso-Arabic inscriptions in the cursive Naskh manner are set within strips of floral motifs. Especially notable is the faience mosaic in the center, with a vase supporting the intricate figure of a bush, or tree of life. Remnants of a similar design are visible on the inner face of the arch (on left). All the figures are surrounded by intertwined tendrils. 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. 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

Деталь Шир-Дора (внутри направо от входа). 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