Central Europe (Germany), second half of the nineteenth century
Between 1870-80. In the luxurious and sunny atmosphere of the refined spa resorts of central Europe, Empress Sissi (Elizabeth of Austria) appears in the sumptuous white dress she was wearing in the portrait, dated 1884, painted by (eliminato: artists) Hans Temple and Albert Ritzberg. In this period Sissi travels a lot, because of her pressing, exhausting desire to keep away from the court of Wien and its protocol (that she was never able to completely accept).

The scenographic atmosphere, resplendent with white marbles (such as the immaculate white Carrara marble called statuario) directly refers to the abstract geometries of Schinkel and to the structural innovations introduced in 1851 by the Crystal Palace of the Universal Exhibition in London, commissioned by queen Victoria; an inspiration and model for the large, exotic conservatories of the Kew Gardens and of similar architectures all over Europe.

What is offered to our glance is a large octagonal hall, lightened by large windows. A sort of lounge, inside a complex structure, set in a large garden. Empress Sissi is talking to a friend standing in front of her; not far behind is another lady, wearing a veiled hat and holding an open parasol. On the right, near the doors, a lady in black appears mysterious and disquieting. It might be an omen of the tragic death of Sissi’s son, Rudolph, in 1889, or of her own murder, in Geneva, in 1898.

It is the triumph of the POINT DE GAZE, the refined and precious Belgian needle lace used to decorate evening fans, and of the light and impalpable CHANTILLY, the French bobbin lace suitable to decorate large stoles, veils, parasols and fans.
  • The care of the body and the cult of beauty were among the main concerns of Empress Elizabeth. For her clothes she did not strictly followed the fashion, she preferred dresses that highlighted her silhouette. To appear even thinner, she did not wear the numerous underskirts so fashionable at the time and she used to have her clothes sewn while she was wearing them. (AA.VV., Sissi Elisabetta d'Austria l'impossibile altrove, Milan, 2000, p.45).
  • On the occasion of her coronation as queen of Hungary, on May 8th, 1867, Sissi chose a wonderful white and silver brocaded dress sprinkled with embroidered lilacs and precious stones, designed in Paris by Worth, the tailor of French Empress Eugenie. The dress cost five thousand francs. (A.Millo, L. Monaco, Sissi imperatrice ribelle, Florence, 1999, p.44).
  • The point de gaze is the most precious needle lace of the nineteenth century, made in Brussels, probably by the M. Vanderkelen-Bresson workshop. Technically not very different from Alençon lace, it is different because of its incomparable lightness and softness, given by the thinness of the thread. It is a very expensive lace and the most frequently used by the most important French maisons. (A. Kraatz, Merletti, Milan, 1988, p.126).
  • It is not easy to distinguish French Chantilly from Belgian Chantilly lace. French lace is generally considered more prestigious than Belgian lace; the Chantilly made in Bayeux is less black, there is less dye in the yarn and this gives it a characteristically shaded and luminous appearance and an almost silver reflection. Belgian lace is characterized by a very traditional pattern, while French lace has more modern decorations and it is more richly patterned. (M. Bruggeman, L'Europe de la Dentelle Un aperçu historique depuis les origines de la dentelle jusqu'à l'entre-de-guerres, 1997, Bruges, pp.194-195).
  • Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, was very fond of lace and above all she preferred Chantilly, Alençon and Argentan lace. She was one of the most important female figures of the nineteenth-century European fashion. In her wardrobe she had a large number of shawls and bordures made with Brussels, Alençon and Chantilly lace. The last one was particularly suited to the refined taste of the Empress who had Spanish origins and loved black like the women of her mother country. (A. Kraatz, Merletti, Milan, 1988, p.120).
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