Forty Columns Isfahan
Pavilion of Forty Columns Chehel Sotun Isfahan
This building -now a veritable museum of Persian painting and ceramics -was a pleasure pavilion used for the king’s entertainment’s 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 Italiano Per il Medio Orient. The pavilion opens onto 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 Persian 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 terrace is a marvel of elegance. The slender pillars support a light wooden ceiling with wide fretwork louvers. Here we should note the influence of Eastern Asian architecture. Part of the sumptuous decoration has disappeared. We must picture the back wall covered with mirrors, the doors of rare carved wood, and the pillars, each cut from a single plane-tree trunk, with their fine veneer, their brightly colored paintings, their mirrors and studs of colored glass. We still have the remarkable ceiling with its beams, its covering, its painted wood louvers, and its carefully lay-work-rosettes and suns, stars,stylized fruit and foliage.
The great wooden ceilings-a rare luxury in a country so lacking in trees-are among guarded by four lions which support the central columns.