This painting depicts a large panoramic view of Lab-i-Hauz Plaza, an ensemble in the center of the old city of Bukhara, centered around a large pool of water. During the 19th Century the plaza and the pool were the favorite summer lounging places of the Bukhariots. Hundreds of visitors to the mosques and madrasas built in the 16th Century around the historic plaza found enjoyable shelter in the shade of the trees surrounding the pool and refreshed themselves in the nearby teahouses and small inns. This was prescisely the scene that Ambassador Crane saw when he arrived in Bukhara in 1891. The colorful and intriging image of ancient Bukhara captured Crane's imagination right from the start. He wrote: "Bukhara was a great, old-fashioned really 'Arabian Nights' Muslim town deep in the heart of Asia. It was a center of religion, education, art and politics, and many people had made pilgrimages there. Day after day I visited one group of people after another, all coming from the remote parts of Central Asia, of which Bukhara was the cultural and commercial capital."
Fascinated with the exotic and colorful place Crane decided to commission paintings of Bukhara and Samarkand. In Tiflis (Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia) Charles Crane met Georgii Gabashvili and after seeing the artist's studies, offered him the commission. This lucrative commission was a great achievement for the young artist. The local newspaper New Review reported in December 1891: "American millionaire Charles Crane who was visiting the Caucases and Central Asia this summer acquired many paintings from the local artists in Tiflis. Few days ago young painter Gabaev received a large commission for 12 studies depicting local views and portraits of the people of the Caucases, as well as two large paintings of Bukhara and Samarkand." In the letter addressed to Crane, dated October 5, 1892 (fig.1), Gabashvili reported that he had completed 12 studies, for 50 roubles each, and two painting of Bukhara and Samarkand, for 500 roubles each. However, according to Crane's memoirs Gabashvili failed to present two of the monumental painting so anxiously awaited by Crane. It was three years later, when Gabashvili turned up in Munich studying at the Munich Academy of Art that Crane was able to persuade the artist to fulfill the contract. Crane recalled: "The paintings finally were finished in time for the autumn Salon and the critics were complimentary about the work of the young artist. I may say they were worth all the trouble."
Disappointed with German modernism Gabashvili decided to return to his motherland. He remained a staunch realist and was vocal in his opposition to left-wing art. He continued to paint historic and contemporary scenes of the Caucasus (Drunken Khevsur, 1899; Alaverdoba, 1898, both are at the National Georgian Museum, Tbilisi) and in 1897 produced another version of the present painting (fig. 2). Gabashvili devoted the latter part of his life to his students, founding an art studio in 1897, and beginning in 1900 teaching at the school of drawing at the Caucasian Society for the Promotion of the Arts, where later he became Director. He was one of the founding members of the Academy of art in Georgia and was the Head of the art studio there from 1922 to 1930. Gabashvilli's extraordinary contribution to the art and culture of his country were acknowledged with the most prestigious title, "People's Artist of the Republic of Georgia."