Mosaics on the Shah-i Zindah Walls. Samarkand


Among the greatest examples of Islamic art in Samarkand is the Gur-Emir ("tomb of the ruler") complex. The shrine was begun by Timur (Tamerlane) in 1403 in memory of his grandson Muhammad Sultan. Following Timur's own death in 1405, his body was placed in the structure, which became the Timurid Mausoleum. It was completed by another of Timur's grandsons, the astronomer-king Ulugh Beg. Shown here is a facade detail within the arch of the main entrance structure. The rich polychrome ceramic work in a Persian style includes geometric and floral motifs, as well as a faience panel with a Thuluth (cursive) inscription. Above is a horizontal inscription band with tendril figures. The inscription identifies the builder as Muhammad-ibn-Mahmud from Isfahan. Visible through the arch is the arcaded wall of the mausoleum itself. 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. In 1911 he made two trips to an area 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

Образцы мозаичных стен в Шах-Зинде. 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