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Sisi – Empress Elisabeth
Elisabeth was very beauty conscious and already placed great emphasis on natural products. This makes her a pioneer of the anti-aging-movement of today.
KURIER – Health | page 17; Friday 24 November 2006
Sisi’s beauty formulas
The imperial anti-aging-pioneer
Elisabeth’s beauty-case also contained some rather quaint remedies, yet some are the basis for modern medical products.


Strawberry cream, veal or slug slime: the range for beauty care was already substantial in the 18th and 19th century. “Many of the products used are in principle not bad for the skin”, says university professor Jolanta Schmidt, head of the cosmetic medical department at the Vienna General Hospital. The new book “Rosebud and Slug Slime” (“Rosenblüte und Schneckenschleim”) shows ingredients still reliable today, as well as bizarre quack remedies. The individual beauty formulas of the Habsburgs and also of Sisi are partially printed in the original.

And yet, even dermatologist Schmidt would keep her hands off mixing her own Crème à la Sisi. Some creams have to be stirred for twelve hours. “Who has that much time on their hands nowadays?” Instead she recommends a “care matching the individual type” made by family physician, pharmacist or chemist. However, the expert most urgently advises against certain supplementary substances like lead and mercury. They are illegal in today’s beauty products. From 1850 these heavy metals were used against pigmentary abnormality, moles and freckles, because they were attributed a desiccative effect. They are in fact toxic and, amongst other things, damage the brain.
Toilettetisch in der Wiener Hofburg
Dressing table in the Wiener Hofburg:
The extensive beauty care dictated a great deal of Sisi’s daily routine.
Image: Katrin Unterreiner; Sisi – Mythos und Wahrheit; Verlag Christian Brandstätter
Slug slime, which used to be a popular addition to facial creams, is also long obsolete. No effect can be confirmed by the doctor. But Sisi’s beloved strawberry cream and the fresh fruit facial mask anticipate the effects of modern fruit acid. “The high vitamin C and B ratio act antibacterially, slightly lifting and invigorating”, according to Schmidt. And: “strawberries can bind heavy metals.” Overall, Sisi placed great emphasis on natural products that were freshly prepared. Make-up, too, was completely rejected by the fair aristocrat and deemed to be an interference with nature. “That is why I do not think that she would have undergone surgery” says the dermatologist. Raw veal, which Elisabeth applied to her face during the night, is deemed by Schmidt to be “not half bad”. The high vitamin C content has an anti-inflammatory effect, the muscle protein element, keratin, acts against skin ageing. Moreover, the meat gives the skin a fresh look and neutralises harmful metabolites (free radicals).

Bathing in olive oil was supposed to make Sisi’s skin smooth. The wholesome effect is still considered beneficial today. Schmidt: “It is primarily a captor of free radicals and contains vitamins A and E which have a positive effect on skin.” Also, aluminium bathing water and powders were supposed to restrain perspiration. Schmidt confirms this. “At the department we use aluminium salts for excessive perspiration, too.”
Book recommendation
S. Fellner/K. Unterreiner
Rosenblüte und Schneckenschleim
Sonderzahl Verlagsgesellschaft m. b. H.
1040 Wien, Große Neugasse 35/15

Rose water, glycerine and slugs
Left: Beauty recipes of Empress Elisabeth
Right: Perfume bottle of Empress Elisabeth
The extensive beauty care dictated a great deal of Sisi’s daily routine.
Image: Katrin Unterreiner; Sisi – Mythos und Wahrheit; Verlag Christian Brandstätter

Against freckles:
Take 4 loth (loth ~ ½ oz) rose water, 2 loth milk, 1 loth unseasonable grape juice, 2 Quintchen (fifths) crushed frankincense, well whipped egg whites and intermingle them; then, before you go to bed, rub it in.
This recipe from the 18th century did not have any effect against freckles, but milk and egg white act as moisturiser.

New cream celeste (recipe from the year 1874):
Cera alba (white wax) 3.00g; Cetacei (spermaceti) 9.00g; Ol. amygdal. dulc. (sweet almond oil) 21.75g; Glycerini puri (glycerine) 9.00g.
Sisi used it for skin protection in winter due to its high oil content.

Slug cream (bourgeois recipe, late 19th c.):
Put ½ kilo lard into water-bath, add 2 Quintchen (fifths) marshmallow roots and 70g ground slugs (…), let it stand for four hours (…) to cool off (…).
With friendly permission by
KURIER Chef-Redaktion
KURIER - Health | page 17; Friday 24 November 2006
KURIER - Living in Vienna | page 12/13; Wednesday 30 August 2006
Exhibition devoted to romantic cliché
Film and truth: Empress Sis(s)i’s furniture
The “Sissi” films are celebrating their 50th anniversary.
The Imperial Furniture Collection (Hofmobiliendepot) shows original antique furniture – and gets rid of a myth


Who doesn’t know the romantic love story of “Sissi” and her “Franzl”: Romy Schneider and Karlheinz Böhm became somewhat like national icons by portraying Emperor Franz Joseph I. and his wife Elisabeth, the historic “Sisi”, in the trilogy produced between 1955 and 1957. The films, too, deliberately romanticised by Ernst Marischka, the director, became iconic. A box office success, their wide appeal shaped the image of the illustrious Empress.
That certain liberties were taken when it came to historical truth can be seen in the Imperial Furniture Collection’s new permanent exhibition. The magnificent furniture was borrowed from the Imperial Furniture Collection for set decoration. “They were used to lend the sets imperial splendour and authenticity”, says Markus Laumann, who organised the show. “They made use of what appealed to them.” That is why green furniture, decorated with flowers, can be seen in the set of Gödöllö Castle, while it was actually decorating the apartment of Elisabeth’s daughter, Gisela, in Schönbrunn; a daughter who was not even born when the story of the film takes place. Also, the writing desk from Sissi’s girl’s room in Possenhofen was in truth the desk of Elisabeth’s mother-in-law, Archduchess Sophie, in Laxenburg.

Contemporary witnesses:
Yet some of the furniture on display have made actual history. The writing desk from the Emperor’s film-set office was used for signing the treaty in 1955. Pope John Paul II. was sitting on the film-set throne during his papal visit to Austria. The six film bunkers were skilfully integrated into the already existing exhibition all around the imperial furniture. 120 new exhibits were added due to the “Sis(s)i-trail”. The visitors are able to retrace the use of the originals in the film clips: the historic furniture is highlighted in colour.
With friendly permission by
KURIER Chef-Redaktion
KURIER - Living in Vienna | page 12/13; Wednesday 30 August 2006
Link tip:
Hofburg – Imperial apartments
Sisi Museum and Imperial Silver Collection
Website of the Wiener Hofburg. The Imperial Silver Collection is an impressive museum with displays which include the porcelain, glass and silver service which were used as the imperial table settings.
Online since: 2002
Type: Information
Language: Deutsch, Englisch
Country: Österreich
Site owner: Schloß Schönbrunn
Kultur- und
Aufnahme und Bewertung: Jänner 2003
Books at Amazon on this subject
Sisi - Kaiserin Elisabeth
Music at Amazon on this subject
Sisi - Kaiserin Elisabeth
DVD at Amazon on this subject
Sisi - Kaiserin Elisabeth
Part 1-3 (box set)
with Romy Schneider, Karlheinz Böhm, Magda Scheider, Gustav Knuth, Josef Meinrad
Director: Ernst Marischka, Karl Ehrlich
The three parts not only portray the life of Sissi who is still the most popular and transfigured monarch in our history, but they also depict the developments described by Elisabeth. In every moment of the trilogy Ernst Marischka’s style reflects the mindset of his heroine. Therefore, “Sissi”, first of the three films, most closely matches the prevailing clichés.
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