January 14, 2013

Antiquities of Samarkand. Mausoleum of the Emir Timur Kuragan (Gur-Emir). Column Capital and Section of Detail on the Northern Facade

This photograph of a detail on the north facade of the Gur-Emir mausoleum in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) is from the archeological part of Turkestan Album. The six-volume photographic survey was produced in 1871-72 under the patronage of General Konstantin P. von Kaufman, the first governor-general (1867-82) of Turkestan, as the Russian Empire’s Central Asian territories were called. The album devotes special attention to Samarkand’s Islamic architectural heritage, including Gur-Emir (Persian for "tomb of the ruler"). Although known primarily as the burial place of Timur (Tamerlane), Gur-Emir was begun by Timur in 1403 to commemorate the death of his beloved grandson Muhammad Sultan at the age of 27. The shrine was still not complete at the time of Timur's own death from pneumonia in 1405. With his burial, Gur-Emir became in effect the mausoleum of the Timurids. Shown here is a segment of the north facade, decorated with polychrome ceramics. The lower part includes the top of an attached ceramic column supporting a segmented capital. Both column and capital display floral motifs. Despite significant damage to the surface of the brick wall, the vertical panel above the column epitomizes the delicacy of these intricate botanical patterns, symmetrically arranged and connected with a web of tendrils. These hexagonal arabesques suggest an organic, universal logic.

Antiquities of Samarkand. Mausoleum of the Emir Timur Kuragan (Gur-Emir). Inscription on One of the Doors

This photograph of a door panel at the Gur-Emir mausoleum in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) is from the archeological part of Turkestan Album. The six-volume photographic survey was produced in 1871-72 under the patronage of General Konstantin P. von Kaufman, the first governor-general (1867-82) of Turkestan, as the Russian Empire’s Central Asian territories were called. The album devotes special attention to Samarkand’s Islamic architectural heritage, including Gur-Emir (Persian for “tomb of the ruler”). Although known primarily as the burial place of Timur (Tamerlane), Gur-Emir was begun by Timur in 1403 to commemorate the death of his beloved grandson, Muhammad Sultan. His sudden death at the age of 27 deprived Timur of his chosen successor. The shrine was not yet completed at the time of Timur's own death from pneumonia in 1405. With his burial there, Gur-Emir became the Timurid mausoleum. This view of the left side of a wooden door, probably within the iwan (vaulted hall, walled on three sides, with one end open) of the entrance arch, displays a panel of intricate relief carving as a background for cursive, elongated Arabic letters. Beneath this square panel is a larger carved design with floral and tendril figures that frame an arched geometric pattern containing diamonds over fretwork. The weathered appearance of the door shows the effects of time, but the carving has been relatively well preserved in this dry climate.

Antiquities of Samarkand. Mausoleum of the Emir Timur Kuragan (Gur-Emir). Inscription over the Door in the Corridor

This photograph of an arch niche at the Gur-Emir mausoleum in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) is from the archeological part of Turkestan Album. The six-volume photographic survey was produced in 1871-72 under the patronage of General Konstantin P. von Kaufman, the first governor-general (1867-82) of Turkestan, as the Russian Empire’s Central Asian territories were called. The album devotes special attention to Samarkand’s Islamic architectural heritage, including Gur-Emir (Persian for “tomb of the ruler”). Although known primarily as the burial place of Timur (Tamerlane), Gur-Emir was begun by Timur in 1403 to commemorate the death of his beloved grandson Muhammad Sultan at the age of 27. When Timur was buried there in 1405, Gur-Emir became the mausoleum of the Timurids. Shown here is the upper part of a portal arch (peshtak) niche, apparently on left side of the north facade. Fragments of ceramic ornamentation are dimly visible on either side of the portal, above which is a ceramic band containing a sacred text in elongated cursive Arabo-Persian script bordered with decorative figures. Above the inscription is a faience pattern of intersecting geometric forms including pentagons, triangles, and six-pointed stars. This interconnected complexity can be interpreted as a reflection of cosmic order. The brick vaulting of the arch was originally surfaced with ceramic work.

Antiquities of Samarkand. Mausoleum of the Emir Timur Kuragan (Gur-Emir). Inscriptions around the Frieze of the Entire Front

This photograph of the Gur-Emir mausoleum in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) is from the archeological part of Turkestan Album. The six-volume photographic survey was produced in 1871-72 under the patronage of General Konstantin P. von Kaufman, the first governor-general (1867-82) of Turkestan, as the Russian Empire’s Central Asian territories were called. The album devotes special attention to Samarkand’s Islamic architectural heritage, including Gur-Emir (Persian for "tomb of the ruler"). Although known primarily as the burial place of Timur (Tamerlane), Gur-Emir was begun by Timur in 1403 to commemorate the death of his beloved grandson Muhammad Sultan at the age of 27. When Timur himself was buried there in 1405, Gur-Emir became the mausoleum of the Timurids. Shown here is the northwest corner of the structure, with one surviving minaret of the original four. The minaret is embellished with spiral Kufic inscription bands containing words from the Islamic declaration of faith. Despite massive damage to the wall surface, the bays with pointed arches still display polychrome ceramic ornamentation consisting of geometric and floral motifs in symmetrical arrangement. Above the arches are fragments of a monumental Perso-Arabic ceramic inscription band extending for much of the length of the main facade. At the top is a makeshift parapet of narrow brick.

Antiquities of Samarkand. Mausoleum of the Emir Timur Kuragan (Gur-Emir). Inscriptions around the Frieze of the Entire Front

This photograph of the Gur-Emir mausoleum in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) is from the archeological part of Turkestan Album. The six-volume photographic survey was produced in 1871-72 under the patronage of General Konstantin P. von Kaufman, the first governor-general (1867-82) of Turkestan, as the Russian Empire’s Central Asian territories were called. The album devotes special attention to Samarkand’s Islamic architectural heritage, including Gur-Emir (Persian for "tomb of the ruler"). Although known primarily as the burial place of Timur (Tamerlane), Gur-Emir was begun by Timur in 1403 to commemorate the death of his beloved grandson Muhammad Sultan at the age of 27. The shrine was still not complete at the time of Timur's own death in 1405. With his burial, Gur-Emir became the mausoleum of the Timurids. Shown here is a section of the north facade with massive damage to the wall surface. The blind arcade still displays polychrome faience ornamentation at the points of the arches, as well as between and above the arch bays. The ceramic work includes floral and geometric motifs in symmetrical arrangement. Above the arcade are fragments of a monumental Perso-Arabic ceramic inscription band extending for much of the length of the main facade. At the top is a makeshift parapet of narrow brick. Partially visible on the upper left is the drum beneath the central dome.

Antiquities of Samarkand. Mausoleum of the Emir Timur Kuragan (Gur-Emir). Inscription along the Sides and inside the Main Entry Niche

This remarkable photograph of a detail of the entrance arch to the courtyard of the Gur-Emir mausoleum in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) is from the archeological part of Turkestan Album. The six-volume photographic survey was produced in 1871-72 under the patronage of General Konstantin P. von Kaufman, the first governor-general (1867-82) of Turkestan, as the Russian Empire’s Central Asian territories were called. The album devotes special attention to Samarkand’s Islamic architectural heritage, including Gur-Emir (Persian for “tomb of the ruler”). Although known primarily as the burial place of Timur (Tamerlane), Gur-Emir was begun by Timur in 1403 to commemorate the death of his beloved grandson Muhammad Sultan at the age of 27. When Timur was buried there in 1405, Gur-Emir became the mausoleum of the Timurids. Shown here is the right corner of the iwan (vaulted hall, walled on three sides, with one end open) arch of the entrance structure. The corner is marked by an attached ceramic column and capital with polychrome decorative panels on either side. To the left of the column is the right flank of the iwan niche. The pointed arch in the lower panel contains botanical figures of polychrome faience set within a geometric design. The panel above displays a rectilinear geometric pattern with floral elements. A similar progression is visible on the main facade to the right. The panels are framed by borders of floral motifs.