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Elizabeth Moynihan Discusses Taj Mahal Gardens at the Freer Gallery of Art

Elizabeth B. Moynihan, wife of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, is the featured speaker at a lecture and reception for the newly published book, The Moonlight Garden: New Discoveries at the Taj Mahal. The event is free and open to the public and takes place at the Freer Gallery of Art’s Meyer Auditorium (Independence Avenue and 12th Street S.W.) on Feb. 6 at 7 p.m.

The Moonlight Garden: New Discoveries at the Taj Mahal, details the results of an intense seven-year project on the ruined garden known as the Mahtab Bagh or “Moonlight Garden”, found directly across the Yamuna River from the Taj Mahal. The study was carried out under the sponsorship of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in cooperation with the Archaeological Survey of India. The book discusses the botanical history and elaborate irrigation systems as well as the landscape design of the garden, producing conclusions that cast new light on its genesis and function.

Mrs. Moynihan authored a chapter and served as the editor of the book. Mrs. Moynihan’s chapter, “Reflections of Paradise,” explores the discovery that in plan, proportion and directional alignment, the Moonlight Garden extends the design of the gardens at the Taj Mahal. The essay also lays to rest early reports by European travelers that Shahjahan (1592-1666; reigned 1628-1658), the Mughal ruler who built the Taj as a monument to his wife, planned to build a replica of the Taj in black marble on the site for his own tomb. Mrs. Moynihan has been conducting research on Mughal gardens for thirty years and has published numerous articles. She was a member of the Indo-U.S. Sub-Commission on Education and Culture and is author of Paradise as a Garden in Persian and Mughal India.

Also speaking at the event is book contributor and paleoethnobotanist David L. Lentz. Lentz is the director of the Graduate Studies Program at the New York Botanical Garden and serves as an instructor and adjunct faculty member at Columbia University, the City University of New York and Yale University.

Both Mrs. Moynihan and Lentz will deliver a slide presentation and sign copies of the book. The Moonlight Garden: New Discoveries at the Taj Mahal is currently available at the Freer and Sackler shops and will be available for purchase the evening of the event. The book was published as part of the Asian Art & Culture series by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, in association with the University of Washington Press, Seattle and London.

The Freer Gallery of Art (12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W.) and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (1050 Independence Ave. S.W.) together form the national museum of Asian art for the United States. The Freer also houses a major collection of late 19th and early 20th-century American art. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day except Christmas Day, Dec. 25, and admission is free. Public tours are offered daily. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information, the public may call 202.357.2700 or TTY 202.357.1729, or visit the galleries’ Web site at

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