Taj Mahal: Fact Sheet

Released July 19, 2005

On View:Oct. 15, 2005 - July 23, 2006

Location: Peabody Essex Museum

East India Square, Salem, Mass.

About the Exhibition:

Celebrated throughout the world for its beauty and the tragic love story that inspired its construction, the Taj Mahal is an internationally recognized landmark. Yet few people know much more about it than that a great Indian emperor built it as a tomb for his beloved wife.

Taj Mahal, the Building of a Legend features approximately 40 paintings, watercolors, photographs and objects, primarily from the museum’s collection, that explore the architecture and mystique of this remarkable site, erected in the 17th century. The Taj Mahal’s legendary status increased in the 19th century through the numerous images and accounts brought back by British travelers in India. Their souvenirs and stories fueled the fascination with this extraordinary building and its associated love story.

Highlights of the exhibition include seven early 19th century paintings by Sita Ram, an Indian artist who traveled with the British Governor General of India on a fifteen-month tour of Northern India. An important pair of portraits on ivory of Emperor Shah Jahan and his wife, Mumtaz Mahal--new acquisitions to the permanent collection--will also be on display. These works, with their vivid jewel-like tones and precise attention to detail, demonstrate how Indian artists adapted Mughal miniature techniques for British patrons in the 19th century. The exhibition also includes loans from public and private collections from across the nation.

Today, the Taj Mahal continues to inspire artists. A contemporary sculpture by the Calcutta-born, Brooklyn-based artist Rina Banerjee will be installed in the museum’s Atrium from mid October until mid February. Entitled Take me, Take me, Take me . . . to the Palace of Love, the piece is a 19 foot high structure in the form of the Taj Mahal. The steel frame, wrapped in pink Reynolds wrap, evokes a view of India through rose-tinted glasses--a view that characterized the colonial British presence in India. Banerjee has exhibited in Spain, Africa, India, Canada, and the United States.

Built along the banks of the Yamuna River, near the city of Agra, the Taj Mahal was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (reigned 1628-1658) as a tomb for his beloved wife, Arjumand Banu Begum, better known as Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtaz Mahal was her husband’s inseparable companion and counselor until her untimely death in 1631. After 23 years and the combined efforts of over twenty thousand workmen and master craftsmen, the complex was finally completed in 1654. The government of India recently celebrated a year-long festival to commemorate the Taj Mahal’s 350th anniversary.

This exhibition is supported by a generous grant from the Lee and Juliet Folger Fund.

CURATOR: Karina Corrigan, Associate Curator of Asian Export Art, Peabody Essex Museum.

PUBLICATION: Illustrated catalogue.

IMAGES: Digital images are available.


PR Contacts:

April Swieconek  -  Director of Public Relations  -  978-745-9500 X3109  -

Whitney Van Dyke  -  Director of Communications  -  978-542-1828  -

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