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Of Imperial and Royal Origin - Vienna Dorotheum: Imperial Court Memorabilia Sale on 27 April 2009
Empress Elisabeth of Austria Order Card and Bills for cosmetics for the Empress
Chair from the Achilleion palace in Corfu, Empress Elizabeth
Cufflinks of King Louis II of Bavaria
Richard Bitterlich, Portrait of Empress Elizabeth
Empress Zita, fan € 1,000 - 2,000, pair of gloves
There is no place like the Dorotheum when it comes to royalty: bidding in the Imperial Court Memorabilia Sale will prove to be worthwhile for historians, nostalgics, and those interested in the Austrian monarchy. The rush for portraits and personal objects of the blue-blooded verges on celebrity worship, and Sisi and Francis Joseph are comparable to pop stars.
In this year’s Imperial Court Memorabilia Sale, held at the Dorotheum on 27 April 2009, the field is dominated by Sisi. The provenance of the empress’s portrait by Richard Bitterlich goes back to the House of Habsburg (estimate € 2,000–4,000). Hans Bitterlich, on the other hand, is the author of a miniature version of the monument unveiled in the Vienna Volksgarten, right next to the Burgtheater, in June 1907, depicting the juvenile empress in a flowing gown seated on a bench overgrown with flowers. The 50-centimetre-high sculpture made of biscuit porcelain and manufactured by the A. Förster porcelain factory is estimated between 2,500 and 3,500 euros.
Sisi, who attached great importance to her looks, is famous for her various beauty recipes. The Sisi admirer who will make the highest bid for six order sheets and invoices for cosmetic articles dating from 1875 will be able to gain insight into the empress’s personal formulas (€ 600–1,000)
An oak chair, with armrests moulded as dolphins, once figured among the original furnishings of the Achilleion, Empress Elizabeth’s palace in Corfu (1892, € 6,000–8,000).
A splendid portrait of Archduke Ferdinand Max, the future emperor of Mexico, as an admiral of the Austrian navy is attributed to Franz Xaver Winterhalter (Menzenschwand 1805–1873 Frankfurt am Main). Emperor Maximilian of Mexico is decorated with the Order of the Golden Fleece and the sash of the Order of St. Stephen (€ 20,000–25,000). Maximilian was also the owner of an extremely rare memento – a personal gilded paperweight in the form of the imperial Mexican eagle dating from c. 1865 (€ 1,500–2,500).
A leather billfold inscribed “from the Cabinet of Emperor Joseph II, used” was personally owned by Emperor Joseph II. This rare personal utensil is estimated between 500 and 800 euros and is accompanied by a certificate of origin dating from 1922.
The devotional objects also include a rosary from the belongings of Empress Maria Theresa (€ 2,000–3,000), a pair of gloves and a fan owned by EmpressZita (1920, € 600–900; 1910, € 1,000–2,000), as well as a court train of an Austrian archduchess from the second half of the 19th century, made of blue silk moiré and elaborately embroidered with silver floral motifs. Court trains used to be attached around the waist and were worn on special occasions at court; they constituted an important element of the festive grand robes worn by members of the higher nobility at the imperial court and were thus magnificently decorated (€ 900–1,400).
A particularly precious item is the pair of cufflinks for the gown of a grandmaster of the Order of St. George, which belonged to no one less than King Louis II of Bavaria (1845–1886). The original blue velvet case of the Munich-based jeweller and purveyor to the Bavarian court Peter Rath contains an inventory label with a hand-written description pointing out the item’s origins as King Louis II, around 1880. The hand-written inscription reads as follows: “A gift to HM King Louis II of Bavaria – received in 1880 – 2 cufflinks, enamelled stars of St. George and roses on light blue enamel.” The materials used include gold, silver, diamonds, and rubies (€ 10,000–15,000).
Auction: Imperial Court Memorabilia, 27 April 2009, 4.00pm