Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?

by - October 09, 2015

Secrets, lies, and falling veils
I can be who you want me to be
Sacred lies, and telling tales
I can be who you want me to be
But do you want me?
Paloma Faith - Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?

Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to take some snaps of the exhibition, so instead I present to you: The Garden of Het Loo...

Paleis Het Loo
Until 27 September 2015*

If you're anything like me you've seen Sisi (or Sissi, the movies added an extra 's' to the name because aesthetics) at least twice every Christmas. Romy Schneider, who plays the charmingly cheery Sisi, keeps the spirits alive long after the Christmas diner has been devoured and naturally long after the real Empress walked this earth.

Empress Elisabeth of Austria (1837-1898) was a keen looking woman with a good set of brains. However her life didn't look like the one Romy Schneider lived. Naturally there are some key points in the films that the Empress experienced first hand (like for instance the battle between her and her mother-in-law about the upbringing of her kids), but it neatly leaves out that her first born child died due to a visit abroad of which Sisi never emotionally recovered (especially because the same mother-in-law had already warned her about the risks she was taking by bringing the kids with her). This is one of the many many tragedies that ruled poor Sisi's life. I mean, the films also happily leave out that her only son Rudolf committed suicide, just before murdering his lover (of which the details have been destroyed at the time because they were 'more upsetting than imaginable'). And naturally that Sisi herself was killed by an anrchist whom shoved a pointy file straight through her heart. Not a 'happily ever after' story, indeed (not to mention the actual relationship between her and our dear Franz Joseph I (1830-1916). Nothing to be compared with the romance between Karlheinz and Romy... *sigh*).

Anyway, this gave food for thought at Paleis Het Loo and they chewed on this idea together with Olivia Lichtscheidl (curator of the Sisi Museum and Schloss Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsges.m.b.H. in Vienna. That's a mouth full, I know) and spitted out a new exhibition. This exhibition "highlights the contrast between the fairy tale figure created by the famous films and the reality of depression, intrigues, obsessions and death."

If you're anything like me, the prospect of this will make you giddy. However... well... how can I put this... well... It was fine. We had a lovely day out, and Het Loo is a pretty palace an sich, but it wasn't the most inspiring MUST GO exhibition I'd expected it to be. First of all: Where are all the pretty dresses gone???

1. There were a lot of words to digest, but they all said the same
It was basically the same stuff on repeat, but then with some other words put into the mix. At some point we looked at eachother and said at exactly the same time "Haven't we read this already?". No we hadn't. But it was indeed exactly the same text, with a bit more scribbled underneath it. Which, I think, is unnecessary. Especially considering the many stories surrounding Sisi and her whole entourage. And yes, you sometimes got a little sip of a side-story that apperently was meaningful to the story (which not all of them were). But that was that. Again and again and again. If you're starting a story, at least tell it all or tell nothing!

2. It was all very superficial (no indepth information)
This one goes hand in hand with number one. Yes, they made sure that every room had at least 20.000 something words written on the walls. But when they all say the same thing, it's hardly surprising or refreshing or helps you to keep you 'interested' into the sub-subject they've chosen to highlight (because it's the same to all those other sub-subjects they've already highlighted in the room before). But it is, I have to say, a good way to get something stuck in your mind. I can recite almost every word used in the exhibition. So I guess on an educational level it scores very high.

3. There wasn't that much to see and a lot of it was 'fake'
At the end of the exhibition you began to believe that the whole thing was sponsored by Swarovski (just to fact check: it wasn't). The number of replica's, especially in comparison to the total number of objects on show (which wasn't a lot anyway), was very notable. I'd say that at least 45% was a replica or 'modern print'.

| Top: Hema | Skirt: Jil Sander | Shoes: H&M | Hat: Vintage | Gloves: Vintage | Belt: My dad's | Necklace: My mum's |

Personally I don't think replica's are a bad thing. But when an exhibition just or mostly excists out of replica's, I question their interpretation behind the meaning of those items. This naturally depends per exhibition, but when you claim to get close and personal, I expect to see items that were close and personal. This all naturally disregards the hard craftsmanship that's been put into recreating those wonderful jewels by Swarovski (because frankly I'd love some myself). But the thought of those heavy cold jewels once touching the delicate skin of the Empress, brings a whole different aspect to the item itself. A different experience, I believe, then saying that the actual necklace of which this is a replica once decorated the neck of the Empress which you can see on this portret which is an interpretation on the replica of the painting you've seen in room one, which in itself is a replica of that famous painting everyone knows about... ya know?

The title and introduction of the exhibition suggests it highlights the 'real' Sisi in comparison to the fairy tale version of her we've come to love. However I thought it to be more like giving a summary of the life of Empress Elisabeth, and yeah, that's the Sisi from the movies (only her life was more like a Greek Tragedy than the appropiate Christmas cheers). They were presented as two different things. Related, in a way, but seperate.

Random shell "cave", because why not?!

We know the Empress due to the movies, but look how complicated (cue retro Avril Lavigne) her life really is. How less cheery she was and how much obsessed she was with her looks and youth (she weighed 48 kg and was 1.72 cm long, she had thick ankle-long hair which took her -well, her hairdresser naturally- two hours to braid and at least a whole day to wash (which she did once every week with cognac and egg), when she got older she didn't want to get photographed or portrayed and when (she didn't went outside much) out and about, she always wore a veil and fan. In a way death became the main story of her life. Oh yeah, she also married some guy called Franz or somethin' and did some charity work because she was Empress or somethin'. And not to forget, every day she ate some violet-ice cream. IMPORTANT.

All in all, the main thing that the exhibition was lacking was a personal touch. Who actually was this Sisi? Not a question that gets to be answered this time. Although I think I'll do pretty good in playing trivia coming Christmas...


*I know, I know, I'm a bit late with posting this one (as goes for all the other exhibitions I went to this summer). But, ya know, just... I've been busy and whatnot. So... too bad for you sucka! (which in Swedish means, according to Google Translate, 'sigh' or 'air'. That's right! Rude AND educational).

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