TOMBS OF PARADISE
The Shah-e Zende in Samarkand and Architectural Ceramics of Central Asia
The necropolis of Shah-e Zende in Samarkand represents a summit in the art of ceramic wall coverings in the Islamic world. Few studies have focused on the funerary ensemble of the Shah-e Zende and this is the first to describe these monuments, their decoration and the techniques and motifs, as well as the different types of ceramics used, and their composition.
Perched on a steep cliff overlooking the ancient city of Samarkand, today the ghost town of Afrasiyab, the necropolis remains largely unknown to art historians and certainly to the general public. In the vast territory of Islam, the Shah-e Zende complex reveals the finest hour of façade-tile ceramics. Nowhere else was such a wide array of techniques of fabrication developed in the space of one century. In the heart of one of these mausolea is a jewel of Islamic ceramics: the cenotaph of the venerated Qutham ibn Abbas. In this magnificent shrine, master ceramists, joined by the elite of illuminators, display an artistry rarely equalled in the medium. Shah-e Zende offers a microcosm of the technical evolution of ceramic arts in Central Asia between the 12th and 15th centuries, and this publication examines the individual monuments whose decoration represents steps along that road. It is a study of cultural heritage and, at the same time, a reference work for admirers of Islamic architecture and ceramics.
Jean Soustiel (1938-1999) began specialising in Islamic art in 1963 and authored many auction catalogues and appeared at several conferences, notably at the Ceramics Museum of Sèvres. He was also the author of an important reference work, Islamic Ceramic (Friburg, 1985), written in collaboration with Charles Kiefer.
Yves Porter (b. 1957) has studied many Oriental languages (Persian, Pashto, Turkish, Arabic, Urdu and Hindi) and has lived periodically in Iran and India. He holds a doctorate in Iranian studies and has published several works, as well as books for the general public.