Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Molti Ritratti: Kaiserin Elisabeth von Österreich

Kaiserin Elisabeth von Österreich can be translated as Empress Elisabeth of Austria. And to be fully pedantic, in 1867 she became empress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Elisabeth (1837-1898), was the beautiful, uncomfortable, Bavarian consort to Emperor Franz Josef, and she came to a tragic end as the near-random target of an assassin, all of which is presented in detail here.

The empire vanished in the wake of the Great War, but Elisabeth (or "Sisi" as she is popularly called) remains the subject of great interest in Austrian and perhaps Hungary as well. I was in Vienna around the time of the centenary of her death, and saw plenty of souvenir images of her, including Sisi chocolates, that nearly rivaled the usual similar items for Mozart.

Although Elisabeth lived in the age of photography, her station in life made it imperative that painted portraits of her were made. Some of these are shown below.


Let's begin with photographs of the young Elisabeth to set the scene.

Photo taken on the day of her coronation as Queen of Hungary, 8 June 1867

Another photo

Now for a few paintings by unknown or lesser-known artists.

By unknown artist

By Amanda Bergstedt - 1855
When Elisabeth was about 18 years old, not long after she married Franz Josef.

By Georg Martin Ignaz Raab

By Hans Bitterlich

By Franz Schrotzberg

By Leopold Horovitz - 1899
Probably posthumous.  This, and several of the portraits below are dated the year of her death or the year after, and were likely derived from photographs in tribute to the departed empress.  Let us know in a comment if any of these "posthumous" works were actually painted from life.

Now for portraits by noted artists.

By Franz Xaver Winterhalter - 1864
An informal (private) portrait treasured by Franz Josef.  This shows her famous, (obsessively?) long hair.

By Franz Xaver Winterhalter - 1865

By Franz Xaver Winterhalter - 1865

By Friedrich August Kaulbach - "Kaiserin Elisabeth auf Korfu" (klein pastell nach 1898)
A possibly posthumous pastel portrait by the noted Munich portrayer of Bismarck and others.

By Philip de Laszlo - 1898-99
Another possibly posthumous portrait, this by the important Hungarian portrait painter who later was very successful in England.

By Gyula Benczúr - 1899
Yet another likely posthumous portrait. Benczúr was a leading Hungarian artist whose worth was recognized in Bavaria and Italy as well, but not so much beyond that part of Europe.

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