Portion of the Left Minaret. Bibi-Khanym. Samarkand


The Bibi Khanym complex in Samarkand was built in 1399–1405 with the spoils of Timur’s (Tamerlane’s) campaign in India. Bibi Khanym was named in homage to Timur’s senior wife, Sarai Mulk Khanym. The rectangular courtyard centers on the Main, or Friday, Mosque, which is flanked by two enormous polygonal minarets. This view shows a portion of the left minaret and adjacent wall. Despite severe damage, resulting from an earthquake in 1897, much of the ceramic ornamentation remains. The surface of the tower shaft is composed of vertical panels with interlocking geometric lines forming six-pointed star figures. The wall displays geometric tile figures integrated with words in block Kufic script from the Kalima, the basis of the Shahada, 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 different parts of the empire. In 1911 his travels took him to Samarkand (present-day Uzbekistan), where he photographed monuments of Islamic architecture.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Часть леваго минарета. Биби-Ханым. 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