While the Silberkammer shows off the Imperial silverware, the Sisi Museum focuses on the Empress Elisabeth (`Sisi’; 1837-98), the consort of Franz Josef I. One of the most popular of Austria’s royal figures—although her popularity was posthumous—Sisi is today iconic. You’ll see her lovely face on posters, chocolate boxes, postcards, and other souvenirs across Austria. If Mozart has competition, it’s Sisi.
Elisabeth met her cousin Franz Josef when she was 15, and he fell head over heels in love with her (a love that lasted through his life, even though it doesn’t seem to have been reciprocated: Sisi admitted to regretting her marriage). Sisi was wedded when she was 16, and faced initial problems adjusting to court life. She later blossomed into a self-assured young lady, one of the best horsewomen of her time, and a renowned beauty. However, despite a loving husband and a lavish lifestyle, Sisi was miserable and soon became a recluse, so obsessed with her own beauty that she would not permit herself to be photographed after she crossed the age of 30. She spent much of her time writing poetry or travelling (especially to Corfu, where she owned a villa), and it was on one of her travels—to Geneva—that she was assassinated.
The Sisi Museum presents the life of Sisi through various means, most prominently her own possessions. You’ll see here her gloves; the shoes she wore as a child, and a pair she wore for her silver wedding anniversary; a medicine chest; a parasol; a fan of heron feathers and ivory; and a metal vase with porcelain roses, gifted by Franz Josef when she was his fiancée. There is, on display, Sisi’s wedding announcement, a steel engraving; and a copy of the white, green and gold dress she wore at the ball before her wedding. There are replicas of her jewellery, each piece crafted especially by Swarovski. These include the famous 28 `diamond stars’ that Sisi often wore in her ankle-length hair. Sisi’s obsession with beauty comes through emphatically. Items from her beauy kit—such as her brushes—are on display, alongside her riding whip and spurs. Her beauty treatments are touched upon, as well: at night, to maintain her complexion, she wore a leather mask underlaid with slices of raw veal (other lotions, based on rose petals or strawberries, were perhaps more conventional).
There are photographs, especially of her siblings; and there are some famous portraits of Sisi by artists such as Winterhalter and Georg Raab. There are excerpts from the Sissi trilogy (starring Romy Schneider); the dagger with which Sisi was stabbed; and Sisi’s death mask.
Unlike the bright and airy Silberkammer, the Sisi Museum is a bit like the Empress herself: touching but rather gloomy. An excellent insight into a turbulent life; an extremely poignant introduction to a woman who had been in a position both enviable and pathetic.