Empress Elisabeth of Austria was fanatically devoted to her physical appearance. She remains famous for her elaborate and very time-consuming daily and evening beauty regimens, including spending at least three hours each day tending to her extremely long hair. She also stopped sitting for portraits after the age of 32 so as to maintain a public image of eternal beauty. Perhaps then it shouldn’t be surprising that she also had a truly splendid funeral mask made for public mourning that is incomparable to any seen in Vienna or any other royal courts of the time.
The mask is made of black velvet with jet bead decoration and lace trim. It features a lace bonnet with ostrich feathers and an asymmetrical veil that extended down to her hips.
In my work in the grief space we often hear from people who wish they could wear a pin (you sure can!) or some other visual indicator to let people know that they’re grieving. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen such a grand statement of grief as Empress Elizabeth’s mask and gown, on display at the Imperial Carriage Museum Vienna along with her equally stunning hearse:
Alas, I have been unable to find additional photos of the mask itself. Rest assured, we are coveting it something fierce. However I did find this French postcard depicting the Empress mourning the tragic and scandalous death of her son, Rudolf, in 1889. It is said that after his death the Empress only wore black.