Chehel sotoun, literally forty columns is a pavilion in the middle of a park at the far end of a long pool in Isfahan, Iran built by Shah Abbas II to be used for his entertainment and receptions. In this palace, Shah Abbas II and his successors would receive dignitaries and ambassadors, either on the terrace or in one of the stately reception halls. The name meaning "forty columns" in Persian, was inspired by twenty wooden columns supporting the entrance pavilion, which, when reflected in the water of the fountain are said to appear to be forty. This pavilion opens on the gardens by means of an elegant terrace, only a few steps high and supported by slender, delicate wooden pillars. In reality, there were never more than twenty columns, but the Persian likes to call the building "the pavilion with forty columns" (besides, the number 40 had a symbolic meaning in Persian and expressed respect and admiration). Two rows of water-spouts and fountains in the shape of stone lions at the four corners carried water to the huge, elegant rectangular basin. The Chehel sotoun is among the nine Iranian gardens which are collectively registered as one of the Iran's 17 registered world Heritage Sites under the name of the Persian garden.
Several palaces were built in Isfahan, during Safavid era few of them have survived. Even though which have survived were severely damaged. The palace of Chehel sotoun (palace of forty pillars) is located in a vast beautiful garden. The original garden was larger than now. The present garden is 60000 square meters. There is a large pool in front of the palace. Interesting aspects of Chehel sotoun are: the stone lions at the four corners of the central pool, the hall and marble and vaulted cornices around it. The glided adornment, painting and the portrait of sovereign in the Royal hall. Along with that of the chambers surrounding the hall of mirrors. The portrait of Shah Abbas
I with the special crown and the miniatures of treasury room.
The palace has some pre-Islamic architecture specification for example likePersepolis, the palace stands on the platform higher than ground floor. An inscription states that the decoration and frescoes were finished in 1647. Only two large historical frescoes date from the later period of the Zand dynasty. Other remains of Isfahan buildings have preserved and placed in the garden near the pavilion with forty columns. Thus, at the south, in the town wall, we find the enameled portal of Qothiyeh mosques dating from 1543 and several faience panels. Each pillar was made of sycamore trunk, originally decorated with colored wooden ornamentation and mirror work, unfortunately pillars decoration has been vanished. On the outside of the building there are some particularly interesting pictures of European figures, presumably based on the ambassadors and their retinue who would have stayed in the palace from time to time.As Ali Qapu, the palace contains many frescoes and paintings on the ceramic. Many of the ceramic panels have been dispersed and are now in the possession of major museums in the west. The depict specific historical scenes such as the infamous Battle of Chaldiran against the Ottoman sultan Selim I, the reception of an Uzbek king in 1646, when the palace had just been completed, the welcome extended to Mughal Emperor. Humayun who took refuge in Iran in 1544 the Battle of Taher-Abad in 1510 where Safavid Shah Ismail I vanquished and killed the Uzbek king. A more recent painting depicts Nader Shah's victory against the Indian Army at Karnal in 1739. There are also less historical, but even more aesthetic composition in the traditional miniature style which celebrates the joy of life and love.
Three remarkable kinds of paintings can be seen in the main reception hall. First the ceiling has a wonderful glittering gold designs. Second, traditional miniature paintings which have decorated lower part of the hall. The third type is portrait of kings, rulers, battle scenes and Royal receptions from different period. On some parts of wall more than two layers of painting can be seen.Above the entrance door of the main reception hall, there used to be a holy Quran which was stamped by the third Imam of Shiites (Imam Hossein). It is a popular tradition even today, that when people who travel pass under the holy Quran, for luck and safe journey. The above mentioned holy Quran is kept in the palace's museum. The ceiling of porch is decorated with beautiful inlaid works. It has the best kind of inlaid decoration among Iranian palaces. In the center of this part there is a small marble pool. These lions were used as bases of four pillars and the same lion work as water fountains. These stones belonged to a palace called "Ghasre Sarpush Khaneh"
This palace was restored by Iranian and Italian masters. All paintings have been leaned and some parts were repaired. The famous Chaldiran war and Karnal war paintings belong to Qajar period. Original Safavid era's paintings are beneath these two paintings. Chaldiran war took place between Shah Ismail Safavid and the Ottoman' Karnal war paintings are about invasion of India by Nader Shah Afshar. One of the paintings shows a reception feast by Shah Abbas the great, receiving Vali Mohammad Khan king of Turkistan. Another painting is showing Shah Tahmasb Safavid receiving Humayun Shah from India. Another painting shows a battle between Shah Ismail Safavid and Uzbeks. The last one shows Shah Abbas the second receiving Mahmood Khan from Turkistan.On northeastern and southeastern of the palace, there are two beautiful semi large rooms which are beautifully ornamented with plaster works and paintings. The northern Eivan and western Eivan were decorated with portrait of European ambassadors and famous members of European delegations. The Chehel sotoun palace is also used as a small museum, worth visiting. In the southeastern rooms, there is a masterpiece of art. A strained glass window, which was transferred from another monument called Darbe Emam.
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