Iran Historical Sites
12/3/2016
Chehel Sotoun Palace
Chehel Sotoun Palace

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Chehel Sotoun Palace

Chehel Sotoun (also Chehel Sotoon) is a pavilion in the middle of a park at the far end of a long pool, in Isfahan 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.

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.

The magnificent talar or verandah is the dominant feature of the palace and the slender columns, over 40m tall, which support it are cut from single chenar trees (platanus orientalis). The roof is also made from chenar tree beams and inset with complex decoration. The surface of much of the throne room is still covered with mirrored glass and this probably also was used on the pillars, as it was in the palace of Ali Qapu, so as to give the appearance of a roof floating in the air.

Looking out over the pool from the Verandah, one is able to appreciate the importance attached historically by Persians to the concept of "talar" which fulfilled their love of sitting in the garden while they were protected from the light and heat.

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.

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