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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

One cannot leave Isfahan without visiting the old Palace


[Illustration:

Handsome Doorway in the Madrassah, Isfahan.]

In the courts and gardens are some fine old trees, amid a lot of uncouth vegetation, while grass sprouts out between the slabs of stone on the paths and wherever it should not be; the walls all round, however, are magnificent, being built of large green tiles with ornamentations of graceful curves and the favourite leaf pattern. In other places white ornamentations, principally curves and yellow circles, are to be noticed on dark blue tiles. In some of the courts very handsome tiles with flower patterns are still in good preservation.

There are in the college 160 rooms for students to board and lodge. The buildings have two storeys and nearly all have tiled fronts, less elaborate than the minarets and dome, but quite pretty, with quaint white verandahs. When I visited the place there were only some fifty students, of all ages, from children to old men. Much time is devoted by them to theological studies and some smattering of geography and history.

One cannot leave Isfahan without visiting the old Palace.

In a garden formerly beautiful but semi-barren and untidy now, on a pavement of slabs which are no longer on the level with one another, stands the Palace of the Twenty Columns, called of "the forty columns," probably because the twenty existing ones are reflected as in a mirror in the long rectangular

tank of water extending between this palace and the present dwelling of H. E. Zil-es-Sultan, Governor of Isfahan. Distance lends much enchantment to everything in Persia, and such is the case even in this palace, probably the most tawdrily gorgeous structure in north-west Persia.

The Palace is divided into two sections, the open throne hall and the picture hall behind it. The twenty octagonal columns of the open-air hall were once inlaid with Venetian mirrors, and still display bases of four grinning lions carved in stone. But, on getting near them, one finds that the bases are chipped off and damaged, the glass almost all gone, and the foundation of the columns only remains, painted dark-red. The lower portion of the column, for some three feet, is ornamented with painted flowers, red in blue vases. The floor under the colonnade is paved with bricks, and there is a raised platform for the throne, reached by four stone steps.

There is a frieze here of graceful although conventional floral decoration with gold leaves. In the wall are two windows giving light to two now empty rooms. The end central receptacle or niche is gaudily ornamented with Venetian looking-glasses cut in small triangles, and it has a pretty ceiling with artichoke-leaf pattern capitals in an upward crescendo of triangles.

The ceiling above the upper platform is made entirely of mirrors with adornments in blue and gold and glass, representing the sky, the sun, and golden lions. Smaller suns also appear in the ornamentation of the frieze. The ceiling above the colonnade and the beams between the columns are richly ornamented in blue, grey, red, and gold. This ceiling is divided into fifteen rectangles, the central panel having a geometrical pattern of considerable beauty, in which, as indeed throughout, the figure of the sun is prominent.


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