Palace of Chehel
Isfahan palaces, particularly those that have survived, are
exceedingly modest in comparison to the royal halls of the Sassanians
or Mongols. The Chehel Sutun Palace, inside a garden with an area of
67,000 square meters, was built as an official court and a reception
hall by Shah Abbas II (1647 AD). Nowadays it is located to the south
of Sepah Street and continues the old talar, or columnar porch.
At its simplest it is only a roof high porch constituting the faca.
When attached to a royal building, it provides a huge outdoor
reception hall, and is susceptible to lavish embellishments that have
included mirror- plated columns, panels and stalactites, and
polychrome mosaic ceilings.
The name means The Forty Columns, although there are actually
18. A reflecting pool (110 X 16 m) is provided to see the other 18. A
more mundane explanation is that 40 was once used synonymouslywith
many in Persian, and still is m some quarters.
1721 Bishop Barnabas of Isfahan described the Chehel Sutun talar
as follows: "The palace where the King held his reception is not a
room or covered hall, but a very large open porch, handsome and more
majestic than that of St Peter's, though not so big. It is completely
full of large and small mirrors, marvelously interlaced, and some
pictures with fine frames. There are in it 24 [actually 18]
columns...covered with small pieces of looking-glass like the whole
porch " It must be added that each column is made out of a single tall
plane trunk covered with a thin layer of painted wood, adorned with
glass and painting.
Walls of the main hall of Chehel Sutun are decorated with six
remarkable wall paintings, four of which belong to the Safavid period,
as follows, starting from the western wing, opposite the main gate:
I. The scene of reception in honor of Vali Mohammad Khan the King of
Turkistan in 1611, by Shah Abbas I
2. Battle of Chaldoran against the Ottomans in 1514 in which the
Iranians fought without fire-arms, under Shah Ismail I
3. Shah Tahmasb 1, grandfather of Shah Abbas I, receiving King Humayun
4. Shah .lsmail I fightmg against. Sheibak Khan the Uzbek
5. Shah Abbas II entertaming Nader Mohammad Khan, king of Turkist.an
6. The sixth large painting, which is more recent, depicts Nader
Shah's victory against the Indian army in 1747, at Karnal.
Some of the other smaller paintings are in celebration of the joy of
living still others from Safavid and Qajar periods depict foreign
personalities. In the chambers along the ivan, too, there are
paintings and superb ornamental designs.
The paintings of the Chehel Sutun Palace have been created in mainly
two styles: I) Iranian style, or magnification with scenes of
miniatures used until then in decorating books; and 2) Foreign or
European style, which became prevalent because of Iran's connections
with Europe. The paintings of the main hall are in the first style,
while those of the northern colonnade are in the latter