Historical Ottoman Palace reopens as museum

Once the residence of Ottoman crown princes, including the last caliph Sultan Abdulmajid, the Dolmabahce Palace in the Besiktas district of Istanbul is now a museum displaying paintings from artists around the world, including Italian artists Fausto Zonaro and Luigi Acquarone and Polish artist Stanislaw Chlebowsk.

After seven years of restoration and renovation, the palace is to be open to the public from March 22 and is the only one in Turkey dedicated to ‘Late Ottoman Life’ in the 19th century.

“There are 202 paintings, 28 of which were borrowed from the Topkapi Palace, and 174 others brought from the National Palaces Painting Collection,” Gulsen Kaya, art historian and curator of the museum told the Anadolu Agency.

There are 11 sections in the museum including “Sultan Abdulmajid – Istanbul Scenes” and “Paintings Bought from Goupil Gallery for the Palace,” which explains how the painting collection in the Ottoman Empire was formed.

Portraits of the sultans Abdulmajid and Abdulaziz are also on show depicting a new era in the Ottoman Empire as they immortalized themselves in paint copying European rulers, Kaya added.

Considered one of the most important paintings in the museum is Sultan Abdulmajid’s own painting, which depicts “his sadness after the Balkan states defeated the Ottoman Empire during the Balkan War.”

The “Westernization in the Ottoman Empire” section traces the change of the military and social life in the Ottoman Empire from the beginning of the 18th century.

“Thanks to this exhibition, visitors will have a chance to learn how this westernization started during the Ottoman Empire, how military reforms affected social life and the development process of Turkish drawing,” Kaya said.

Paintings by the second and third generation of westernized Turkish artists such as Seker Ahmed Pasha, Suleyman Seyyid, Osman Hamdi Bey and Halil Pasha are in the ‘Turkish Painters’ section.

The most magnificent part of the museum has been dedicated to the famous painter Ivan Aivazovsky, who won favor in the Ottoman Empire with his paintings in which the sky and sea are dominant themes.

“There are 23 paintings by him in this magnificent hall. We believe his drawings depicting scenes from Venice, Istanbul, Russia and nature will attract visitors,” Kaya concluded.

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