Sisi: from tragic empress to “Disney”-style princess!?

The commodification and romanticization of Sisi is at a peak frenzy in Vienna these days. Like Klimt’s “The Kiss,” the famous formal portrait of Elisabeth is plastered on everything from teacups to T-shirts, and the famous diamond star hairclips shown in that portrait are for sale as replicas in both rhinestone and Swarowski crystal all over town.

1-18 Sisi portrait

1-18 Sisi's exercise equipment
Sisi’s custom built exercise equipment – she exercised for hours each day to maintain her 19″ waist. She was certainly one of the great beauties of her age, but she yearned also to use her mind. Over time she gained in confidence, and at the urgings of her Hungarian lady-in-waiting and the dashing Hungarian nationalist statesman Gyula Count Andr√°ssy, she exercised her power and her intellect to urge her husband Franz Josef to agree to form a dual monarchy with Hungary. For this reason, she is to this day remembered as a great heroine in Hungary.

Her assassination perhaps clinched her popular notoriety in our own sensationalizing era. Little is hidden from view at the Sisi Museum in the Hofburg, from her bathroom to the honed file that was used by her assassin to stab her to death. The experience of going through the apartments felt a little sickening and voyeuristic.

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About pcooperwhite

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