Bibi-Khanym. Detail of Northeast Side. Samarkand


This view shows part of the rich ceramic work on the northeast side of the main facade of the great mosque at the Bibi Khanym complex in Samarkand. Built in 1399–1405 by the conqueror Timur (Tamerlane) with the spoils of his campaign in India, the Bibi Khanym complex was the location of the city’s primary mosque, named in honor of Timur’s senior wife, Sarai Mulk Khanym. The complex centers on the Main, or Friday, Mosque, one of the largest in the Islamic world. Shown here is an array of ceramic ornamentation, including intricate geometric figures integrated with block Kufic script, as well as vertical decorative strips with geometric and floral patterns. On the left is part of an attached tower with panels containing elaborate star patterns. Above are panels with cursive Perso-Arabic inscriptions. 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 the region of Central Asia then known as Turkestan (present-day Uzbekistan and neighboring states).

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Биби-Ханым. Деталь северо-восточной стороны. 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