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The Habsburgs up close and personal

Wheeled chair used by Elisabeth Christine, Vienna c.1740 © BMobV/SKB, Photo: Lois Lammerhuber

A wheeled chair, a cradle, a bed: at the Imperial Furniture Collection everyday items such as these are more than just lifeless objects – they’re silent witnesses to the private emotional states of their erstwhile owners, speaking eloquently about joy and suffering, pain and tragedy.

The wheeled chair bears witness to the torments suffered by Empress Elisabeth Christine, who to increase her fertility was prescribed large quantities of rich food and red wine for so many years that she ended up being dependent on this contraption to get around.

Even imperial highnesses have basic bodily needs – as attested by the extensive collection of sanitary porcelain. Spittoons, portable bidets and commodes allow insights into very private, even intimate aspects of the imperial family’s daily life.

Cradle made for Crown Prince Rudolf, Vienna 1858 © BMobV, Photo: Marianne Haller

Rudolf’s magnificent cradle on the other hand recalls the jubilation that greeted the birth of the long-awaited heir to the throne – and the bed from Mayerling his tragic end. Sisi’s scales reveal her obsession with her looks, and the plain coffin in which the body of Maximilian of Habsburg was brought home attests to the shattered dream of a Habsburg empire in Mexico.

But there was more than just tragedy in the House of Habsburg, as indicated by the cage once inhabited by the canaries Bibi and Büberl owned by Emperor Franz II (I): even emperors could enjoy moments of being charmed by birdsong now and again.

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