Imperial hoarding

Imperial hoarding

On my next-to-last weekend in Vienna, I decided I really should learn more about Kaiserin Elisabeth, better known as “Sisi.” I’d been reading her recent biography “The Reluctant Empress” by Brigitte Hamann. (A lot of scholarly detail, some of which could have been cut or relegated to even more footnotes for a better read – but certainly a thorough portrayal of Sisi’s shy, then rebellious, and finally quite desperate life.) With better understanding of her history, I went on Saturday Jan. 18 to both the imperial furniture museum or “Möbelmuseum” and the “Sisi Museum” (her apartments in the Hofburg complex). The furniture depot is one of the more bizarre monuments to hoarding in history. This “Hofmobiliendepot” or served as the repository for all the Habsburgs’ unused furnishings – kind of like an imperial Public Storage unit on steroids. Over time this stash of furniture and knick knacks also became a source for period movies. The museum includes an exhibit about the many movies made about Sisi, which transformed her from a sad figure into a romantic, and then even feminist heroine. To the extent that she kicked against the traces of imperial court life and ritual, snuck off to make hospital visits without her proper entourage, and found solace in starving herself to maintain her legendary beauty, there are some parallels, I think, with Princess Diana of Wales – although Diana was clearly a devoted mother in ways that Sisi was not, or was not allowed to be. Here are some of my own images from the museum. For more images and information, check out

1-18  Charging through the bed chamber
Charging through a bedroom!?

1-18  royal table decor
Royal table decor

1-18 Bosendorfer king of pianos
Bösendorfer, the king of pianos

1-18 Chair innards
Chair innards, showing how these royal chairs were made

1-18 Habsburg silver and centerpiece
Habsburg silver and centerpiece

1-18 lotta chairs
A whole lotta chairs

1-18 Sisi and her scale
A wax figure of Sisi (courtesy of none other than Madame Tussaud’s!) with her scale

1-18 Sisi film posters
Sisi in film

1-18 Sisi Hollywood wig
An imperial wig for Sisi on film

1-18 Sisi in film

1-18 Sisi portrait replica in Mobel Depot
A replica of the famous Sisi portrait in the furniture museum

1-18 stair assemblage at Mobel Depot
Chair assemblage at the furniture museum

1-18 stairs at Mobel Depot
Graceful stairs for the furniture depot

1-18 troubadour in a cage at Mobel Depot
Creepy troubadour in a cage

1-18 unhappy statuary
One very unhappy putto!


About pcooperwhite

Christiane Brooks Johnson Professor of Psychology and Religion, Union Theological Seminary, New York NY
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