[Side view of the Taj Mahal, Agra.]
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the Taj Mahal, Agra, taken by an unknown photographer in the 1880s, part of the Bellew Collection of Architectural Views. The Taj Mahal was built by the Emperor Shah Jahan (ruled 1628-58) as a mausoleum for his favourite wife Arjumand Banu Begum, who was called Mumtaz-i-Mahal or 'Chosen One of the Palace', and who died in childbirth in 1631. Shah Jahan was an aesthete and lover of architecture and chose to express his feelings of love and loss through the medium of an unique building. Built of India’s finest marble, quarried at Makrana in Rajasthan, the colour of the Taj registers subtle changes with different light conditions. According to the French traveller Jean-Baptiste Tavernier who witnessed some of its construction, 20000 artisans took 12 years to construct it. It is set on a high plinth at the north end of a walled enclosure containing formal gardens, overlooking the river Yamuna. Four elegant minarets ending in small cupolas are placed at the corners of the plinth and the main building is topped with a pearl-shaped dome. The whole is sheathed in marble which is decorated with pietra dura featuring varieties of semi-precious stones and exquisite calligraphy.