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Detail of the pietra dura work in the Taj Mahal, Agra.

Detail of the pietra dura work in the Taj Mahal, Agra.

Artist: Anonymous

Medium: Watercolour

Date: 1808

Shelfmark: Add.Or.1910

Item number: 1910

Length: 45.5

Width: 45

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Drawing

Detail of pietra dura work in the Taj Mahal, Agra in Uttar Pradesh. Inscribed on the front: 'A Representation of a Curious Piece of Inlaid Marble in the Hall at the Back of the Tomb in Tage Mhal.' The inscription however appears to be mistaken. The drawing shows a detail of the pietra dura work on the top of the cenotaph of Shah Jahan. The use of this type of decoration, similar to the Florentine technique of pietra dura, is thought to have been influenced by the presence of Italian craftsmen at the Mughal court, and developed in India as 'parchin kari'. Small pieces of gemstones such as carnelian, lapis lazuli, turquoise and malachite were arranged in complex stylized floral designs set into a marble base. The Taj Mahal was built by the Emperor Shah Jahan (r.1628-58) in memory of his favourite wife Arjumand Banu Begum upon her death in 1631. Constructed of brick and faced in India’s finest marble, quarried at Makrana near Jodhpur, it took 12 years to build involving 20,000 craftsmen from all over Asia. The tomb and accompanying buildings are organised around a garden divided into four parts by raised walkways with water channels at their centres. The domed white marble mausoleum stands on a plinth with tapering minarets on each corner. There is a high recessed arch or 'pishtaq' at the centre of each of the building's four facades; each central niche is flanked by further small double arches. Inlaid coloured marbles and gemstones in floral designs embellish the exterior and interior of the building. Its harmonious proportions and the high quality of its craftsmanship have made the Taj Mahal one of the most famous buildings in the world.

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