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The picturesque Chehel Sotoun Palace of Isfahan

The picturesque Chehel Sotoun Palace of Isfahan

Chehel Sotoun Palace of Isfahan is one of the most picturesque Persian gardens and historical monuments of Iran, which is left from the Safavid Dynasty.

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February 8, 2021

Undoubtedly one of the most magnificent 17th-century monuments in Iran is the Chehel Sotoun Palace (forty-columns) of Isfahan which dates back to the Safavid period. (1501 – 1736). Chehel Sotoun Palace is one of the must-see places in Isfahan and is known as the best place to learn more about the decorative art of the Safavid court. This palace is located in a lovely garden which is one of the 9 Persian gardens designated as UNESCO World Heritage in Iran.

The history of the Chehel Sotoun Palace

Chehel Sotoun Palace was a ceremonial palace designed for state occasions and particularly for the reception of foreign embassies. The garden and a small pleasure pavilion in it were constructed during the reign of king Abbas the Great. The current building was believed to be constructed by the order of king Abbas the Great as well, but during the restoration carried out in 1948 an inscription was found recording its completion in 1647 during the kingdom of Abbas II.

Why is it called Chehel Sotoun Palace?

Chehel in Farsi means forty, but there are only twenty columns that support the wooden roof of the veranda with its amazing inlaid and fretwork! But since the reflection of the columns is projected in the pool and brings the number up to forty, it is called Chehel Sotoun. Also, Chehel (forty) is a common term in Persian to show a large but imprecise number. There are other examples for use of this number such as the forty-column palace in Qazvin, the former capital of the Safavid dynasty in Iran, and also the famous story of Alibaba and the Forty Thieves in one thousand and one night’s tales, or the term Chehel Cheragh which refers to a place with a great lighting.

 

Chehel Sotoun Palace - Isfahan, Iran

Chehel Sotoun Palace - Isfahan, Iran

The Architecture of the Chehel Sotoun Palace

As you enter the lovely garden you will face a big water pool (110m long by 16 m wide). At the other side of the pool, the spectacular veranda of the palace is the first thing that catches the visitor’s eyes.  Each of the pillars of the veranda is formed of a tree trunk over which a thin layer of the colored board has been fitted. Back in the 17th century, this veneer was covered with colored studs of glass and mirrors. Some part of the veranda still has its 17th-century mirror decoration. In the center of the veranda, there is a small marble pool highlighted by figures of four lions which are engraved in a way that every two lions share one head. The lions are also served as bases of the four central columns of the veranda and fountains. Some little rooms, which were delightfully decorated with Safavid figure-paintings, were designed for the use of the Shah and his ministers and open out of the veranda.

But definitely the highlight of the palace is the Throne Hall which has a glittering ceiling and the walls that are painted with both figurative and abstract designs. The ceiling of the throne hall is probably the finest surviving example of its kind in Iran. The main hall is also decorated with six fascinating murals, four of which belong to the 17th century, and the other two were added in the 19th century.

 

Chehel Sotoun Palace - Isfahan, Iran

Chehel Sotoun Palace - Isfahan, Iran

The murals of Chehel Sotoun Palace

The Murals of the wall opposite to the entrance show from right to the left;

1-  The feast which was given by Shah Abbas the Great in honor of the king Vali Mohammad Khan of Turkestan. In this painting a picturesque portrayal of the outstanding Safavid court is clear.

2-  The Mural in the middle is a 19th-century one that depicts the battle of Chaldoran which took place in 1502 between the founder of The Safavid dynasty, King Ismail, and the Ottomans.

3-  The third one is the portrait of the second king of the Safavid dynasty, Shah Tahmasb who is shown receiving Homayun the Moghul king of India who fled to Iran in 1543.

The opposite side of the hall is decorated from right to left with murals showing:

4-  The battle between king Ismail and the Uzbek army in which the Safavid king vanquished the Uzbeks,

5-  This mural (a 19th-century painting) is depicting the battle of Karnak in India in which the Persian King Nader defeated the Indians!

6-  The third painting is the reception given by Shah Abbas II in honor of King Nader Mohammad Khan of Turkestan.

Fortunately, these murals have remained almost intact as compared to the small miniatures which were badly damaged during the Afghan and Qajar Period.

 

Chehel Sotoun Palace - Isfahan, Iran

Chehel Sotoun Palace - Isfahan, Iran

The Throne Hall is bordered by large rooms on its sides. These rooms are also adorned with beautiful paintings. The hallway which leads to the southeastern room is adorned with a beautiful painting known as Chaharshanbeh-Suri which depicts one of the famous national festivals of Iran. The exterior galleries of the building exhibit several paintings with European portraits. One of them shows what may be King Charles I of England and his Queen, Henrietta Maria. The Garden of Chehel Sotoun Palace is delightful and it is used as a part of the museum complex to exhibit the remains of some of Isfahan’s Buildings which have been damaged or destroyed in the course of time, such as the restored portal of Qotbiyeh Mosque, the portal of another old monument known as Darbe Kushk and four column bases depicting women and lion figurines marking the four corners of the pool.

 

Chehel Sotoun Palace - Isfahan, Iran

Chehel Sotoun Palace - Isfahan, Iran

 

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