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Dressing & Exercise Room (c) Schloß Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsges.m.b.H, Photo: Tina Dietz

The Dressing Room/Exercise Room was where Elisabeth spent most of her time. This was where her day began, in the winter at six o’clock in the morning, starting with her daily hair-dressing ritual.


Elisabeth’s magnificent tresses were legendary, and every day Fanny Feifalik, her hair-dresser, marshalled them into elaborate coiffures referred to by the empress as ‘police-warrant hairstyles’. ‘Behind the Empress’s chair stood the hairdresser in a black dress with a long train, a white cobweblace apron; though a servant herself, an imposing phenomenon.’ (Konstantin Christomanos)

Caring for these torrents of hair occupied a considerable amount of time and Elisabeth used these hours to converse with her Greek tutor and to learn languages. Over her lifetime she learnt seven foreign languages. While Christomanos admired the empress’s beauty, she herself felt the time-consuming dressing of her hair as a burden.

In this private boudoir Elisabeth surrounded herself with portraits of individuals she had a particular affection for. These included many different personalities from her Bavarian and Habsburg families, mostly eccentric family members such as the Habsburg Archduke Ludwig Salvator, who lived an autonomous life on Majorca and with whom Elisabeth felt an especial affinity.

One wall bears a gallery of portraits of Elisabeth’s beautiful and eccentric sisters in between those of her parents and brothers. There are also two striking portraits of the empress’s favourite poet, Heinrich Heine, on whose works Elisabeth modelled her own poetry.

Above the washstand hang three watercolours in broad dark velvet frames showing views of the Villa Braila on Corfu. The empress resided there during her first visit to Corfu in the early 1860s. After the emperor managed to acquire it for her she had it rebuilt as the Achilleion in 1889/90. The decoration of the Dressing room/Exercise Room is completed by portraits of Franz Joseph, photographs of her favourite daughter Marie Valerie and paintings of her favourite dogs.

Elisabeth also used this room for minor gymnastic exercises which she performed ‘en passant’, as she expressed it. The wall bars, high bar and the rings in the frame of the door leading to the Large Salon have been preserved. For more intensive training she had a large gymnasium where she could exercise using heavy apparatus. This room was located by the diaphragm arch on Schauflergasse that connected the Amalia Wing with the Court Hospital, which no longer exists.


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