Empress Elisabeth of Austria
Louis Jacoby (German, 1828 – 1918)
DimensionsImage : 24 1/2 x 16 1/4 in. (62.23 x 41.28 cm)
Sheet : 32 1/2 x 22 7/8 in. (82.55 x 58.1 cm)
Credit LineBequest of Paul Fried
LabelEmpress Elisabeth of Austria was born to a Bavarian noble family and enjoyed a relatively informal, carefree life as a child. At age sixteen, however, her parents arranged her marriage to Franz Joseph, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and she was suddenly thrust into a world of strict protocols and backstabbing politics at the Hapsburg court. Elisabeth quickly gained a reputation as one of the most beautiful women in her husband's empire, a reputation she would strive to maintain for the rest of her life. She was especially famous for her long chestnut hair and tiny "wasp" waist, both of which are evident in this print. Elisabeth had a team of servants to help her with her daily hair regime, which typically involved two to three hours of combing, braiding and arranging in order to create her elaborate coiffures. To preserve her hair's luster, she washed it every two weeks in a special mixture of beaten eggs and cognac. Elisabeth achieved her legendary 19-inch waist through a combination of dieting, exercise and tightly laced corsets. Her determination to maintain her youthful figure--even after giving birth to four children--caused her much stress and ultimately led her to develop serious eating disorders in her later years. This print captures Elisabeth as she looked in 1865 at the age of 27. Soon after she turned 32, Elisabeth decided that she would no longer sit for portraits or photographs and there are very few images of her from the final decades of her life.