Chehel Sotoun (Sotoon) Palace, Esfahan

Sunday, 30 November 2008 19:32 administrator
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{mosimage}Chehel Sotoun (also Chehel Sotoon, Persian: چهل ستون) 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 the Shah's 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, "Forty Columns," was inspired by the twenty slender wooden columns supporting the entrance pavilion, which, when reflected in the waters 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 they were reflected in the pool in the park, and so the Persians liked to call the building the "pavilion with Forty Columns"  (besides, the number 40 had a symbolic meaning in Persia 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 (Sotoon) Palace and its garden cover an area of approximately 67,000 sq. m. This palace was constructed during the reign of Shah Abbas I. Shah Abbas II was also responsible for additions to this palace, such as the hall of mirrors, the hall of 18 pillars and two large chambers facing the north and south. The spectacular hall of mirrors with its decorative mirror work, tile work and paintings, along with its majestic porches and pool which faces this hall, all add to its splendor.

Interesting aspects of the Chehel Sotoun (Sotoon) Palace are:{mosimage}

The stone lions at the four corners of the central pool, the hall and marble and vaulted cornices around it.
The gilded adornments, paintings and the portrait of the 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 the treasury room.
Several facades such as the 'Qotbiyeh Mosque', 'Zaviyeh in Kushk', and the imprints of the 'Dar-e-Joubareh' and 'Aqasi Mosque' are affixed in the western and southern walls of the garden. The hall and porches of this palace were constructed during the fifth year of the reign of Shah Abbas II. The reflection of the twenty pillars of the hall in the pool opposite the palace brings about a conception of forty pillars. Hence the name Chehel Sotune.

As with Ali Qapu, the palace contains many frescoes and paintings on ceramic. Many of the ceramic panels have been dispersed and are now in the possession of major museums in the west. They depict specific historical scenes such as a reception for an Uzbek King in 1646, when the palace had just been completed; a banquet in honor of the Emir of Bukhara in 1611; the battle of Chalderan against the Ottoman Sultan Selim II in 1514 in which the Persians fought without firearms; the welcome extended to the Mughal Emperor,Humayun who took refuge in Iran in 1544; the battle of Taher-Abad in 1510 where the Safavid Shah Ismail I vanquished and killed the Uzbek King. A more recent painting depicts Nadir Shah's victory against the Indian Army at Karnal in 1739. There are also less historical, but even more aesthetic compositions in the traditional miniature style which celebrate the joy of life and love.

 

This building - now a veritable museum of Persian painting and ceramics-was a pleasure pavilion used for the king's entertainments and receptions.  It stands inside a vast royal park, but relatively near the enclosure, and was built by Shah Abbas II round an earlier building erected by Shah Abbas I.  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.

Unfortunately, the Chehel Sotun has been badly damaged since then, especially when the Afghans occupied the town and covered the paintings with a thick coat of whitewash.  It is now being extensively restored under the aegis of the Institute Italian Per il Medio Oriente.



 Other remains of Isfahan buildings have been 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 the Qothiyeh Mosques, dating from 1543, and several faience panels.

Last Updated on Sunday, 30 November 2008 19:39
 

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