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Tops of the cenotaphs of Shah Jahan and Arjumand Banu Begum, Taj Mahal, Agra 1795

Tops of the cenotaphs of Shah Jahan and Arjumand Banu Begum, Taj Mahal, Agra 1795

Artist: Latif (fl..1820s)

Medium: Watercolour

Date: 1820

Shelfmark: Add.Or.1795

Item number: 1795

Genre: Drawing

Watercolour of the top of the cenotaph of the Emperor Shah Jahan and of the Emperor Akbar, by Latif, an artist working in the Agra style, part of the Bax Collection, c. 1820-1822. Two seperate inscriptions can be read; first: inscribed on the front in English: 'The Top of the Emperor Sha Jehan's grave at the Taj Mhal'; in Persian characters: 'Lauh i qabr i Shahjahan badshah 'amal i Latif' (The top of the grave of the Emperor Shah Jahan. The work of Latif). Secondly; inscribed on the front in English: 'The Top of the Emperor Akbar's grave at Secundra'; in Persian characters: 'Lauh i qabr i Akbar badshah dar Sikandrah 'amal i Latif' (The top of the grave of the Emperor cror Akbar at Sikandra. The work of Latif.)
The cenotaph on top belongs to Shah Jahan and is located in the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal was built by the Emperor (r.1628-58) for his favourite wife Arjumand Banu Begum upon her death in 1631. Constructed of India’s finest marble, it took 12 years to build involving 20,000 craftsmen from all over Asia. 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, including the top of this cenotaph. The second cenotaph top belongs to the Emperor Akbar and is situated at Sikandra; dated inscriptions show that the tomb was completed by Akbar's son Jahangir (r.1605-27) in 1614. The mausoleum is set in a vast square garden of the 'chahar bagh' plan, a formal garden divided into four sections by red sandstone causeways containing water channels, interspersed with fountains and ponds. The monumental main gateway, in a hybrid style that includes Persian and Hindu elements, is of red sandstone with inlay mosaic patterns of floral and geometric shapes.

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