Among of the great glories of Persian architecture are its gardens. Thus when Shah Abbas was laying out his new city he also laid out a grand avenue – the Chahar Bagh Avenue – which led down to the river and beside it a number of great mansions. The greatest of these was the Chehelstoon Palace, still surrounded by its magnificent gardens.
Chehelstoon apparently means forty columns, though there are only 20 columns that form the great veranda in front of the palace. The palace, completed by Abbas II in 1647, is situated at the end of a vista formed by a long pool is reminiscent of the Taj Mahal in far away India (now Pakistan), which was in fact being built at exactly the same time. The first half of the 17th century was the great glory time for Muslim architecture: between 1610 and 1640 the Blue Mosque was being built in Istanbul, the Great Square and its buildings were being laid out in Esfahan, and the Taj Mahal was being built by the moguls in India.
Inside the palace are some of the great Persian paintings. Here we see Shah Abbas I (left centre) welcoming Vali Mohammed Khan, the ruler of Turkistan,an event that formed part of Abbas’s campaign efforts to extend Persia’s power and influence. Food and drink is being distributed lavishly, but note in the bottom right hand corner that one of the courtiers has fallen down drunk and is being attended to by a doctor, while one of the girl musicians looks on solicitously. Alcohol was certainly not forbidden at this time (double click on the photo to see the detail).
Here we see Abbas II in 1647 again receiving a Turkistan ruler, this time Nadr Mohammed Khan (in white, centre). Between them the table is spread with food and at the top servants are bringing more food. At the bottom the entertainment is in progress, at both sides there are musicians with a variety of instruments, and in the centre are three dancing girls.
Both paintings were painted in the 1640s when the palace was built by Abbas II. The paintings are said to show a European influence in their use of perspective.
The Persians are very proud of their gardens!