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Star jewellery of Empress Elisabeth

Franz Xaver Winterhalter's famous painting of Empress Elisabeth in the Court Gala robes also made famous the Empress's diamond stars. There were various versions of this, namely eight-pointed and ten-pointed stars with and without pearls.

Diamonds stars with pearls (Köchert) and without pearls (Fischmeister) © SKB

Detail of Franz Xaver Winterhalter's famous painting © SKB

Wiener Diarium: Trousseau of Archduchess Elisabeth © ÖNB

The most famous portrait of Empress Elisabeth is the 1865 painting by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, commissioned by Emperor Franz Joseph. It shows Elisabeth in the Court Gala robes with a dress designed by Worth and with diamonds stars in her hair. The painting also made the Empress's diamond stars famous. Contrary to what was previously thought, there were various versions, namely eight-pointed and ten-pointed stars with and without pearls produced in a variety of jeweller's workshops.

Ten-pointed stars without pearls were made by the jewellers Rozet & Fischmeister, amongst others, former Court suppliers. From this workshop, another set has also survived, consisting of a large star and two smaller stars without pearls, that is known to have originated from the Empress's possessions and was to be seen for many years as a loan to the Sisi Museum.

The jeweller's company Köchert, likewise a former Court supplier, made a number of diamond stars, including ten-pointed stars with pearls at the centre. One of these stars was made available as a private loan on the occasion of the large special exhibition to honour the 100th anniversary of the death of Empress Elisabeth in Schönbrunn Palace in 1998, but was then stolen and found again 10 years later on another continent. This star was bought by Schloss Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsges.m.b.H. in 2010. This original piece of jewellery is now on display as a permanent exhibit in the Sisi Museum.

The set of stars shown on the Winterhalter painting consists of 27 diamonds stars which, as the portrait shows, could be worn individually or clipped together to create a diadem.
On the occasion of the marriage between Archduchess Elisabeth, the daughter of Crown Prince Rudolf and the granddaughter of Empress Elisabeth, to Otto Windischgrätz in 1902, this set of jewellery was included in the bride's trousseau as imperial dowry.

The dowry included numerous pieces of jewellery, including the Winterhalter set with 27 ten-pointed stars without pearls, in a velvet casket, which can be seen on the photo in the Wiener Diarium. Contrary to what has been stated in the past in the literature, Empress Elisabeth did not give these famous diamond stars to the ladies and personnel of the court, but left them to her granddaughter.
In front of the set with the diamonds stars, there are two small caskets with Empress Elisabeth's pearl jewellery from what is known as the Petznek estate (second marriage of the Crown Prince's daughter to the Social Democrat Leopold Petznek), which today can be seen in the Treasury of the Hofburg Museum. The attribution to the Köchert studio cited in the caption only concerns the bridal jewellery and not the whole of the jewellery in the trousseau.

The trousseau, the bride's wardrobe, was put on display in the Vienna Hofburg before the wedding on 19 and 20 January 1902, and reports were also published in the Wiener Diarium. The Court expected huge interest on the part of the Viennese population to see the princess's dowry. The Burghauptmannschaft issued 4,000 admission tickets, but the crush was much greater than expected, leading to pandemonium.

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