Hannes Richter

Sisi Myth

Hannes Richter

Vienna’s Newest Museum


April 24, 2004 was one of the most memorable days for the museums located in the Vienna Hofburg. Not only was it the opening of a new museum complex featuring a permanent exhibit depicting the daily life of the Austrian Empress Elisabeth, better known as "Sisi," but also commemorating her 150th wedding anniversary with Franz Josef I, Emperor of Austria and Hungary.

The life story of the Empress, who was not only a beauty but had an intellect that overshadowed many of her contemporaries, has for decades inspired countless writers, movie producers and composers. Therefore, the museum curator made every effort to present to the visitors a composite of myth and reality.

To realize this rather difficult assignment, Rolf Langenfass was engaged as the leading set designer of the Wiener Theater an der Josefstadt. In the museum that was once a part of the Empress' apartment, he emphasized the personal aspects of her life. He documents Sisi's life by showing original artifacts. Among the clothing to be seen are the dress worn on the night before her wedding, her morning robe, as well as fans and gloves.

No effort is being made to conceal the tragic life of the Empress. Considerable sensitivity is used in revealing her unhappiness at the Vienna court and her resultant obsession with dieting, including her original beauty secrets. Another sign of her unhappiness was her frequent and extensive trips abroad.

Based on this broad presentation the management of the Hofburg museum expects a large influx of tourists, and they are convinced that it will remain a permanent attraction for the Vienna tourist industry.

"My dear, dear, my only angel- I do beg you in the name of the love you have sworn to me, try to take hold of yourself, show yourself sometimes in the city, visit hospitals and institutions. You simply don’t realize how much help that would be to me. It would encourage the Viennese and boost their morale, which I do so desperately need....And keep yourself for me, I worry so much.... " (Excerpt from a letter of Emperor Franz Joseph I to the Empress in 1859, during the battle of Solferino).