Nineteenth century images, paintings and other reminders of Empress Elisabeth, aka Sisi, are omnipresent in Vienna: in museums, on boxes of chocolates, on postcards – all over the city. Never before has the buzz surrounding Sisi been stronger than it is right now. Her story has been told time and again. And each generation has created its own version of Vienna's tragic empress. But the basic essence has remained the same all these years: it’s all about her beauty, her clothes, depression, eating disorders, her sporting “obsessions” and her pursuit of eternal youth.
But the real woman behind her popular image – which has been over 125 years in the making – has somehow stayed in the background. The most famous portrait of the empress, created in 1865 by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, hangs in the Sisi Museum today. An icon that speaks to the whole myth surrounding Sisi, it helped spread her fame and beauty around the world. But to mark the start of Women’s History Month on March 1, the original painting, which attracts millions of people from around the world every year, was covered up – by a new portrait of Sisi that redirects the visitor’s gaze from her outer appearance to the essence of her being.
Sisi’s New Portrait shows a pared-down, minimalist poem that considers the facts about the empress that have been overshadowed by her popular image.
Remember women for who they were. Not for what they looked like.