Mosaics on Walls in Old Bukhara


The Astrakhanid dynasty in Bukhara (in present-day Uzbekistan) during the 17th century was adept in its organization of urban space. One example is the Lab-i-Hauz complex, a trading area containing a square reservoir that provided water and served as a reflecting pool. Among the buildings in the ensemble is the Kukeltash Madrasah built in 1568–69 during the reign of Abdulla-khan II (1534–98). It was one of the largest religious schools in Bukhara, with 160 khujra (rooms) for scholars. Seen here is the iwan arch at the far end of the rectangular courtyard. Although damaged, the facade shows a remarkable array of ceramic decoration in elaborate geometric and floral patterns. At the top is a horizontal ceramic panel with a Perso-Arabic inscription in the Thuluth cursive style. 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 an area of Central Asia then known as Turkestan, where he photographed the ancient monuments of Bukhara.

Date Created

Subject Date


Title in Original Language

Образцы мозайки стен в Старой Бухаре

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