Entrance into the Gur-Emir Mosque. Door. Samarkand


Among Samarkand’s major monuments is Gur-Emir ("tomb of the ruler"), begun by Timur (Tamerlane) in 1403 in memory of his grandson Muhammed Sultan. Following Timur's own unexpected death from pneumonia in 1405, his body was also placed in the mausoleum. It was completed by another of Timur's grandsons, the astronomer-king Ulugh Beg. This view, mistakenly identified as an entrance to the “Gur-Emir Mosque,” shows remnants of intricate ceramic ornamentation, including mosaics of five and six-pointed star motifs. Above the portal is a Perso-Arabic inscription panel in flowing Thuluth (cursive) script. 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. Prokudin-Gorskii was particularly interested in recently acquired territories of the Russian Empire such as Turkestan (present-day Uzbekistan and neighboring states), which he visited on a number of occasions, including trips in January 1907 and two trips in 1911 that focused on the ancient city of Samarkand.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Вход в мечеть Гур–Эмир. Дверь. 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