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Dolmabahce Palace, alongside with the Yildiz Palace, was the last residence of the Sultans until the Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Declaration of the Turkish Republic in 1924. During the years 1720-1890, the Ottoman art diviated from the principles of classical architecture. In the Lale (Tulip) period, Ottoman art was under the influence of ornamental decoration styles from the West. Baroque, Roccoco, Ampir, Gothic, and Romanesque styles intermingled with classical form of art and architecture. Characterisitic features of this hybrid style were fountain structures. This arabesque form took on an eclecticism. One of the early examples of this mixture of Turkish and Western syle is the Aksaray Valide mosque.

The palace was built on a picnic spot, hence the name Dolmabahce for the palace (Dolma= Stuffed meal, a favourite picnic dish in Turkish culture; Bahce= garden). But this place is not without myths. The place on which Dolmabahce Palace has been erected is believed to be the spot where the Argonaut ship, the mythical Argos, has anchored while on its quest for the Golden Fleece. This is also the spot where Sultan Mehmet II. (the 'Conqueror'), during the siege of Istanbul, is believed to have brought his fleet on land in order to reach the Golden Horn and to prepare for the last and decisive attack.Dolmabahce Palace was surrounded by summer Pavilions, mansions, and villas in the Ottoman period. When the Sultan Mahmut II. abandoned the Topkapi Palace, finding the residence confining and distant from the actual Istanbul, he repaired the elaborately decorated Old Palace,also known as the Besiktas Coast Palace, and used it as a court residence. In 1843, Sultan Abdulmecit I. appointed his Architects, the Armenian Karabet and Nikogos Balyan brothers, to built grander palace in the place of the Old Palace. The Palace, erected in place where once the Old Palace and the picnic spots were, was finished in 1856 and Sultan Abdulmecit took up residence in the palace the same year. The exterior appearance of the palace is dominated by the central Reception Room and wings that contain the public and private (harem) rooms. The palace extends into the Bosphorus and has a 600 metre long splendidly decorated quay. Unlike the traditional terraced gardens, the gardens of the palace are located on a flat area. The palace is surrounded by high walls and is accessed through two main gates: the Treasury and the Regal gates. Both gates have columns ornamented with rosettes, oyster shells, leaves and branches, and strings of pearls, and are framed by a central arch. The gate pediments are decorated with roses, wreaths, and vases. Above the Treasury Gate is the tughra (the Sultan's individual signature) of Sultan Abdulmecit I. dating from 1853 under which a coupled from the poet Zivyer is inscribed. The tughra on the Regal Gate is again Sultan Abdulmecit's signature but dates back to 1854.

The palace itself is built of marble from the Marmara island, and of prophyry from the quarries of Bergama. The main influences on its exterior style are Baroque and Gothic form of architectures. The exterior walls are made of solid stone whereas the interior walls are built with bricks.Together with its basement, the three storey palace, covering an area of 110.000 squaremetres, has 285 rooms, 46 salons, 6 balconies, 68 toilet rooms, and 6 Turkish baths. The interior layout of the palace is simple and cohesive, the rooms are grouped in straightforward line and open to a large chamber. Thus, for example, each room of the Harem wing opens to a large chamber, the common meeting room of the wing. This layout is traditional, a central indoor courtyard surrounded by private rooms. The furnishings and decoration inside the palace were done by the famous designer Sechan, whose other designs include the Paris Opera. The ceilings are high and are painted with sectioned frescos. The whole building is covered with the most precious carpets in the world, the Hereke carpets. The carpets cover a total area of 4454 squaremetres. The dominant decorative pieces within the palace are made of crystal. Bohemian and Baccarat chandeliers and fireplaces give the salons an extra sparkle. The Holiday Reception Room (the 'Muayede' Salon) in Dolmabahce palace houses the grandest chandelier in the world - a 4.5 ton gift of the English Queen Victoria made of the finest crystal. Another interesting piece made of crystal is the staircase in the entrance that leads to the second floor.
Later additions to the palace are the Mosque of the Queen Mother, the Clock Tower built under the reign of Sultan Abdulhamit II., the Crown Prince Chamber, the treasury, Eunuch chambers, the Glass Pavilion, a pharmacy, a pattiserie, and a pastry kitchen. The palace had additional buildings, like the stables, carriage buildings, and servants' lodgings, stretching almost one kilometre long on either side of the palace. On religious festivals the Sultan would accept greetings from foreign ambassadors and high-ranking Ottoman officials (there was no class of nobility in the Ottoman social structure). For this occassion the golden throne would be brought from the Topkapi palace and located within the grandest hall, the Holiday Reception Room (the 'Muayede' Salon) on the second floor. The room is a marvel in itself with its stately 2000 squaremetre area, its 56 columns, its 36 metre high dome and the enourmous chandelier, mentioned above, hanging from the dome ceiling.Although the exterior of the palace looks western, the interior is more familiar with the Turkish culture, and the most popular example that symbolizes this culture is the Harem. The Harem wing (the 'Harem-i Humayun', the Imperial Harem in Turkish) is no longer secluded within high walls but the traditional conception of the secrecy of the familiy was not abandoned - the harem remained as a seperate wing in the palace and no stranger could enter the wing. Yet the wing was not a small one either, it constitutes 2/3 of the whole rooms in the palace. This wing had its own reception room, the Mabeyn Salon (the traditional Harem community chamber), which was the equivalent to the Muayede Salon (the traditional selamlik chamber for men). Both rooms lie next to each other but are seperated with mahogany and iron doors. The Harem has again the traditional structure: the biggest room belonged to the Mother Sultan. The surface of area of the rooms are determined according to the rank of the consort witin the harem structure, these were followed by the eunuch haremagasi and kizlaragasi, the heirs', and the chambermaids' rooms.
The building was originally heated with braziers and firestoves, but tile stoves were used too in the later periods. The entrance halls were heated by stoves that were in the basement. During the years 1910-12 the palace has been wired with electricity and a central heating system was added as the main heating system.
Besides being a museum, the Palace hosts receptions and concerts in its grand halls. The palace was the last residence of Ataturk, who used his own humble room instead of the grand rooms in the palace. Ataturk's private wing is not normally on exhibition.

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