There are many important historic places in Iran, with a long history behind. They are showing an important part of history, as most of them were built by the order of kings, courtiers, local governors or other authorities. Today, we are going to visit one of those monument. In Isfahan there is a famous garden with an eye-catching edifice, known as Chehel Sotoun. This place is also called as Chehel Sotoun museum, because some parts of it is using as the museum of antique objects. So let’s explore this amazing place…
The history of Chehel Sotoun palace
The history of this place was not clear until about 60 years ago that archeologists found some inscriptions, poems, referred to Safavid era, 400 years ago. The inscription says that it was built during the reign of Shah Abbas The 2nd, but historians believe that the first phase of constructions dates back to the reign of Shah Abbas the 1st , about 500 years ago. According to historians, Shah Abbas the 1st, after changing the dynastic capital, from Qazvin to Isfahan, ordered to build gardens, streets, mosques and other urban complexes, in order to be a deserved capital for the dynasty. Besides, he ordered to build a mansion in the middle of a garden, being known as Jahan Nama garden, and used there as his cozy, private place. Later, during the reign of his grandson, Shah Abbas The 2nd, the mansion expanded and became a place for meeting ambassadors. In addition at the end of Safavid dynasty the place had some maintenances, as it was damaged due to a fire. After Safavids, some destructions had been happened by the local governor of Isfahan, during 19th century. Then, the palace was maintained and later became a museum, the museum of antique objects of Isfahan.
The sketch of the garden is based on the plan of Persian gardens, a type of garden with some sections, streets, streams of water and the existence of a mansion within it. Actually, this style appeared in Pasargadae for the first time. In fact, this garden was located among some other gardens, but as a result of being destroyed and also the passaging of time, most of them are ruined. There are three entrances in Chehl Sotoun garden which the oldest and the main one is at the east. As one entered through the main door, he or she will face a pool in front of a mansion, surrounded by trees in both sides. This style can be interpreted as moving ahead.
AS it mentioned, at first a small pavilion had built in the garden and later it expanded. This part has an external architecture, in fact it is the main characteristic of pavilions in Persian gardens. It is a rectangular building divided into three sections, the middle one is divided into three parts, too. Another point is that, as other royal buildings it has a symmetrical plan. The different sections the mansion are:
When one enters to Chehel Sotoun garden, the portico is one of the first thing that he or she will see. It is built toward east with 38 m length, 17 m width and 14 m height. Moreover, there are 18 wooden columns in the portico, but the four middle columns have stone bases, decorated with the figure of lions. It has said that water spitted out from their mouths and then flew in a marble pool, in the middle of the portico. This part was decorated with mirror works, and paintings. After portico, there is the entrance of The main hall or the mirror hall. It is a bit higher and decorated with eye-catching mirror works. In addition, in this part there are two other columns which together with the columns of portico, they are 20. The reflection of these 20 columns in the pool, in front of the portico, make it to 40 columns and that’s why this place is called Chehel Sotoun palace in Persian, meaning the 40 columns palace. Also, there is an inscription above the entrance of the main hall, it is about the date of building. Behind portico, two similar and symmetrical building are constructed across from each other. At the bottom of these buildings there are tall cornices with openings. Moreover, some antique objects of Isfahan are presenting there.
The main hall
Another important part of Chehel Sotun is the main hall which is located in the central section of the mansion. It has 22m length, 11m width and 12m height with three golden glazed domes at the top. In addition the main hall is decorated with astonishing Paintings. Actually, they are drawn in Isfahani style. This style was appeared by Reza Abasi, the most famous artist of that time. This style has some special features such as; floral designs are more beautiful and the dominant colors are golden and silver than before, the number of portraits are increased and clothes are depicting with small details. In addition they were influenced by Armenian arts whom were departed to Isfahan. Any way, as you enter to the main hall, six amazing paintings will attract you. They are showing a battle scene or a meeting.
The meeting of Shah Abas the 1st with Vali Mohammad Kahn
Vali Muhammad Khan was the king of Turkestan. He appointed his nieces as the governors of Samarqand and the south of Jaxartes river. But later, they revolted against their Uncle and defeated him. Then he came to Shah Abas the 1st. Also, Safavid commanders and musicians can be seen in this painting. This is one of the best paintings of that time.
The battle of Shah Ismael the 1st against Ottomans in Chaldoran
Shah Ismael is the founder of Safavid dynasty. As he enthroned, he chose Tabriz as the capital. Later he fought against Ottomans in Chaldoran strait. In that war, Iranian were defeated and the capital was conquered by Ottomans. Later, during the reign of Shah Abas the 1st, Iranian defeated Ottomans and regained their territory.
The meeting if Shah Tahmasb the 1st and king Homayun from India
In this painting, the artist tried to draw every small details such as; clothes, caps, hair, ornamentations and music instruments. Also, it is a symmetrical painting that the number of people are the same in both sides. Homayun wears yellow clothes and stretched his hand toward Shah Tahmasb. The king of Iran has red clothes while his special cap determined him in the crowed. To the left Indians are presenting gifts and to the right Iranian courtiers and noblemen are depicted. In this painting dies, natural colors, are used.
The battle scene of Shah Ismael the 1st against Uzbeks
The painting shows the battle of Taher Abad in Marv. Shah Ismael the Safavid king, is shown by his yellow clothes riding a white horse. Shibak Khan, the Uzbek king, has purple clothes and is riding a brown horse. It can be easily notice that Uzbeks are setting back and being conquered.
The battle of Kornal, king Nader against Indians
Now, Nader Shah, he was the commander of Iranian army at that time but later became king, is fighting against Muhammad Khan, the king of India. This battle is know as Kornal battle. In fact, Afghans attacked Isfahan, conquered the city, looted it and ruled for about 7 years. Later Nader defeated them and chased them to India. Indians refused to surrender them which became the casus belli. This painting, had added after Safavid dynasty, during the late of 17th century.
The meeting of Shah Abas the 2nd and Nadar Mohammad Khan
Here Shah Abas the 2nd is greeting the king of Turkmenistan, Nadar Mohammad Khan. He asked Iranians’ help to regain his usurped throne and Shah Abas supported him by sending an army.
In addition, there are some other paintings in the main hall. They are about ceremonies and national stories. Moreover, some European ambassadors and travelers are depicted in both sides of the hall. Some historians believe that they were drawn by artists from the Netherlands, Angel and Lokar. Also, at the northern and Sothern porticos, there is the painting of some Armenian and Georgian girls. They were covered during Qajar dynasty, the 19th century.
Besides, there are other decorations such as; mirror works, stucco works with floral motifs as the frame of paintings and some inlaid works on doors. There are also some other objects which had been brought there from other places. For example, the tile workings from Aghasi mosque, khajeh mosque, jubar mosque and the sculpture at the corners of the pool. This place is registered in the UNESCO’s world heritage list among Persian gardens.