Dolmabahçe Palace

In 19th century started the Tanzimat period in Ottoman Empire. Ottoman Empire wants to re-organize the situation in the empire but Although Great Powers wanted to go in the economy system of the empire. Ottomans were in subordinate position compared with European countries. They understand the difficulties of their position.

Imperial Edict of Reorganization
Imperial Edict of Reorganization

The tanzimat period composes of the years from 1839 to 1876. Two Hatt-ı took place at these ages. The one is the Hatt-ı Şerif (1839) and the other was the Hattı-ı Hümayun (1856). These agreements gave many freedoms to minorities and these were the start of the re-organization of the empire. For example the first stopped the religion and the social differences between the Ottoman citizens. The second one put the empire under the pressure of Britain and France. This new palace of Dolmabahçe started building at these ages. This kind of westernization of the Empire started with Selim the III, who sent established diplomatic missions in capitals of Europe in the last period of 18 century. He wanted to reposition the relations of the Empire with Europe. Ottomans met the art and the architecture of this Period in Europe and they understood the different of the way of life. These missions were sent to France, Austria and Britain, so the architect of this period took influences from the styles like Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassicism. A new period of art and Architecture just started.



The first major Euro-palace along the Bosporus is the Dolmabahçe Palace (Dolmabahçe Sarayı). In the mid-nineteenth century the amazing Topkapı Palace (Topkapı Sarayı) with the classical Ottoman and Turkish baroque architecture was declined.

The Dolmabahçe Palace, in English meaning filled garden, is located in the European side of Istanbul, near to Beşiktaş. Dolmabahçe Sarayı served as the sultan residence and the last main administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire from the 1856 until 1889 and from 1909 until 1922.

Dolmabahçe Sarayı
Dolmabahçe Palace

The building built from Abdülmecid I between the years 1843-1856, after Crimea War. Six Sultans lived in this palace from 1856 until the abolition of the caliphate in 1924. This palace was also used from Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as his summer presidential. That’s the reason why is located the room death of this man.

This palace is about 45.000 m² and the cost of building was extremely huge. The cost is considered to be so much that represents 35 tons of gold. Hacı Said Ağa was responsible for this imposing work. The architects who decorate this building were Garabet Balyan, Nigoga Balyan and Evanis Kalfa. The front of the palace is about 248 meters.


Sections and Uses

To begin with, the palace is composed from symmetry. A big hall is situated in the centre of the palace, from this point starts the symmetry. Two wards with rooms are located from the left and the right side of the central hall. There are 285 rooms, 46 halls, 6 Ottoman Hamams and 68 toilets in the palace. All rooms are luxuries and full of gold. There are rooms with sea view and others which have a land view. To the North side are situated the rooms of the harem and to the south are situated the rooms of Selamlık (only for Men).

The palace is composed of three sections. First we meet the Main Entrance (Medhal Hall- Ceremonies Hall), this part of the palace is also named as the Throne Hall or the Ceremonial Hall. The largest bohemian crystal chandelier is situated in this part of the palace. The rooms are having view towards the sea and the land. These which had a view to sea were used by Grand Vizier and others ministers. These which had a land view were used by Şeyhülislam and from members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. In the main Entrance is also situated a Bull table in which the monogram of Sultan Abdülmecid is bearded. This monogram is also recognized in the fireplace of this room. The second room from the right side after the Medhal is the Clarks Hall. The secretariat’s room has the largest painting in the palace. There is also a painting collection in this hall.

The second section is The Mabeyn-i Hümayun (Selamlık), which is available place only for men. This is the place of the state business.

The third section is The Harem-i Hümayun (Harem), which is available only for women and for the Sultans family.  In this section are the personal apartments of the Sultans Family. To the harem section is also located the Atatürk’s room, decorated with French style furniture. Many valuable porcelain vases and wonderful paintings signed by Rudolph Ernst are located there.

The complex of Dolmabahçe has also rooms for the servants, kitchens, imaret, hospital, stables and rooms for the guards of the residence-palace. When the palace finished, they celebrated with a big event in the Ceremonial Hall. In this year they celebrate the end of Crimea’s War.


Architecture Design

The architecture design contains elements from baroque, rococo and neoclassical styles. What many people impose is the traditional Ottoman architecture in compare with the symmetry, charity, axiology and regularity. This type of décor reveals the influence of European Styles. Given that baroque, rococo and neoclassic were the main styles in Europe from the 17th until the 19th century we can talk about European influence. (The European neoclassic style started in 1748-1750 with the firsts excavations and the industrial Revolution and finished in 1830 with the democratic revolution in France). The influence of Europeans styles seems up to the Doric and Ionic pillars next to columns. The decoration modelled on French standards. The main characters of this palace are the little balconies that are located in this building.

Based on a tripartite division by Corinthian columns, they carved with baroque like twig motrs, scroll-work, give a different aspect. The Palace contains elements delivered from the Italian renaissance. The ornate gate ways lead into gardens based on Roman triumphal arch. Entrance from waterfront to the Grand Ceremonial Hall has a complex with columns and pilasters with baroque style. The palaces principal south-west gate, with the Baroque style was designed by Nikogos Balian. In the entrance, at the hub of the palace, lies one of the largest throne rooms in Europe, designed by Nikogos Balian too. The Grand Ceremonial Hall of the Palace is a room of the baroque style with huge piers and arches reaching to a towering dome. In the centre hangs a five tones chandelier, a present by Queen Victoria to Abdülmecid. The dome is painted and there are also tempera-oil painted windows wreathed in foliate sculpture. There are floral painted designs. The entrance to the Mabeyn-i Hümayun (Selamlık) apartments of the palace were the place where sultan usually sultans received their guests.  The western neo-classical Renaissance design by Garabed Balian in the entrance is based on a Greek temple.



European artists were invited to the empire among them the Italian Giuseppe Donizetti who came to the palace in order to introduce the Western music to the ottoman palace and to form a chamber orchestra and military band. Décor completed with paintings of European style. Paintings with landscapes and cities scenes were painted by European artists.

Dolmabahce Palace Décor
Dolmabahce Palace Décor

Many painters came from Europe. Ivan Konstantinovich Aiwazovsky from Russia, Victor Pierre Huguet and Roudolf Theodor Rocholl orientalists from France are some of the painters which had been coming from Europe. In the palace are posted many paintings from local painters with western approaches. Finally the realistic painter from Italy Fansto Zonaro, took the title of the official royal artist by Abdul Hamid II. He also attracted in 1891 the attention of the monarch title of painter oh His Imperial Majesty the Sultan for his skills. In 1896-1909 he painted thousands of paintings. Two of his most known paintings were in 1897, the one was about the Ottoman-Greek War and the second was about the entry of the Turks into Constantinople.

Mosque: The Mosque was built at same period in order to attend Friday prayers residents in Dolmabahçe.

Clock: After the westernization period of the Ottoman Empire many different buildings built in the Capital of the Empire. In this Frameworks built the famous Clock of Dolmabahçe Sarayı.

Balyan Family

The constructions of the new palace are given by Balyan Family.  The palace was built by Garabed Balyan, a member of the best known Armenian family of architects. The Balyans became the most well-known architects among the Ottoman elite and dominated the architectural profession for nearly a hundred of years.

Graves of the Balyan Family Graves of the Balyan Family

The first Balyan appointed as imperial architect, Bali Kalfa. The family came from Kayseri, an area to central Anatolia.

The first studied European architecture in Paris, and worked to the Ottoman government. Garabet Balyan in 1840 sent his sons Nikogos, Agop and Sarkis to study architecture in Paris. Coming back from Europe his sons, brought new ideas which taken influences from European styles. The biggest and most imposing work of Garabed Balyan is the magnificent Dolmabahçe Sarayı. Balyans brought classicism supported by Greece-Roman monuments. They used Corinthian columns and eclectic style of the European classical Tradition.



The palace is the result of the process of westernisation period which began forty years earlier. Western fashion is complete the design with French and Turkish style. Many presents were given from foreign monarchs. For examples, Tsar Nikolas II gave two huge whit bearskins, Ismail Pasha gave fine silver cabinet and clock-thermometer-barometer, and the governor of Hejaz gave elephant tusks.


European lights in the Dolmabahçe Palace, İpek Fizoz

Splendours of the Bosphorus Houses and palaces of Istanbul, Chris Hellier- Francesco Venturi, Tauris Parke book, London

Istanbul the Capital of Cultures, Tuna Köprülü, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, 2009

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Vişnezade Mah. Dolmabahçe Caddesi 34357 Beşiktaş, İstanbul
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