Detail of External Wall on Left Side of the Exit from the Passage of the Dead. Samarkand


The Shah-i Zindah Necropolis is located at the outskirts of Samarkand. Built on an ancient burial ground, Shah-i Zindah (Persian for “living king”) is revered as a memorial to Kusam-ibn-Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. Most of the some two dozen mausoleums, shrines, and related structures in the necropolis date from the late 14th and 15th centuries, and a number were commissioned by Timur (Tamerlane) and by his grandson Ulugh Beg, the astronomer king. The monuments are famed for their superb ceramic tile decoration, often incorporating patterned Perso-Arabic script. This strikingly abstract photograph shows a portion of the wall surface at the entrance to the complex. The layers of the adobe wall are interspersed with molded brick ornaments. 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 monuments of Islamic art.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Деталь наружной стены с левой стороны у выхода из прохода мертвых. 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