Interior of the Taj Mahal, Agra, showing the cenotaphs 1768
Watercolour of the interior of the Taj Mahal, Agra, by an anonymous artist working in the Agra style, part of the East collection, c. 1808-1820. Inscribed on front: 'Section of the Central Chamber of the Taj. no.4.'
The Taj Mahal was built by the Emperor Shah Jahan (r.1628-58) for his favourite wife Arjumand Banu Begum upon her death in 1631. Constructed of 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 pietra dura was done with thousands of imported precious and semi-precious stones arranged in floral designs that embellish the exterior and interior of the building. The domed white marble mausoleum stands on a plinth with tapering minarets on each corner. Its harmonious proportions and exquisite craftsmanship have made the Taj Mahal one of the wonders of the world. The cenotaphs of Arjumand Banu Begum and Shah Jahan, located in the central chamber, can be seen in this drawing.