AGRA, India — One step into the Mughal masterpiece that is the Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, and the artisanal inlay work is all around me.
The walls are made up from white marble from Rajasthan encrusted with semi-precious stone decorations – cornelian, jasper, lapis lazuli, onyx, and topaz formed into images of cypress trees and wine bottles, or more elaborate decorations like cut fruit or vases containing bouquets. Light penetrates to the interior through delicate jālī screens of intricately carved white marble. The interior decoration is considered by many to have inspired that of the Taj Mahal, which was built by her stepson, Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.
It’s the finest — the smallest — inlay work I’ve yet seen: Panels containing a still life of flowers in a vase, and a section of repeating geometric patterns revealed some serious stoneworking brilliance.