On the Registan. Samarkand


In the center of Samarkand is the Registan complex, consisting of three madrasah (religious schools). The second of these, the Shir-Dar Madrasah, was built in 1619–36. This view from Registan Square shows a group of turbaned mullahs and youths on the steps in front of the main facade, which contains the great iwan arch. (The left flank of the arch is brightly lit.) In the center is a large niche containing a partially blocked lattice window, with decorative panels containing floral and geometric figures on either side. Above the window is an inscription in the Thuluth cursive style. The niche culminates in a curved vault composed of ceramic components in a manner known as mocárabe, also referred to as a “stalactite” vault because of the appearance of the suspended decorative elements. 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 photographing the Islamic architecture of Samarkand (present-day Uzbekistan).

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

На Регистане. 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