Vinegar Valentines Day

Who said the modern lady has exclusive rights to the broken heart? Just because we didn’t have Adele in our day, doesn’t mean we did not express ourselves over the sorrow of love gone awry.

Case in point. As many of you know, I was betrothed to the Emperor when I was a wee 15 years of age. But what you may not know is that the auspicious engagement at Bad Ischl came on the heels of the death of my one true love. A count from Bavaria. He was a young man who went off to war and fell ill with some horrific disease (back in the 19th century, there were plenty of virulent bugs about. You caught a cold, and three days later, dead).

And even after my wedding, there were plenty of men who filled my heart with romance and intrigue, but, naturally, a Empress does not go around spreading her skirts willy nilly! No, I was a faithful, expectant wife–ever hopeful that my days would be appointed with favors and kindnesses, but woe and alas, marriage often leaves one hungry for love. On no other day of the year do the lovelorn feel more disheartened than on St. Valentine’s Day.

St. Valentine’s Day has a storied tradition of disappointment. Misunderstandings over how a hare should be properly boiled, or whether one’s summer holiday should be taken in the mountains or at sea. The Emperor, like many a husband, would forget all about the roses and chocolates–and scoot off for a hunting trip in middle of February. Heartbreak, ladies, is older than the hills.

Per chance you, too, are sitting alone on this day of love? As the adage goes,

A juicy little ebook. 7 tales of love.

A juicy little ebook. 7 tales of love.

misery loves company, so I submit to you, this charming collection of Vinegar Valentines collected by Birmingham Museum. Enjoy.



P.S. for you aficionados of modern love and all its complication, consider this ebook, UNKISS ME. 99 cents at Amazon.

5 Castle Series: Upper Belvedere

Klimt's Der Kuss

One simply can't NOT make out in front of Klimt's Kiss

Welcome to the over-the-toppest of all that is over the top. The Upper Belvedere puts the Coco in Rococo, yes? Even the Belvedere website does not deny the outrageousness of pomp that characterizes this hunk of marble. From the website:

The garden palace primarily served the purpose of pomp and display. This is reflected in the elegant sala terrena (today the entrance hall), the grand staircase, the magnificent Marble Hall, rooms sumptuously embellished with stucco and frescos (frescos by Carlo Carlone [1686-1775], ceiling paintings by Giacomo del Pò) and the chapel with the exquisite altarpiece by Francesco Solimena (1657-1747).

"Bad Friederich"

The Marianna Gartner masterpiece, "Bad Friederich" reminds of my own little Rudolph!

But the grandest thing about the Upper Belvedere? it is THE place to go for the latest in risky art. From Klimt to Schiele to Kokoschka, the art at Belvy will make you deliciously uncomfortable (even more than the hard marble pathways and lack of seating in the palace).

Long Haired Boy

Gartner's long-haried boy is replete with dark humor

If you are planning on a trip to Vienna this fall, you simply must check out the exhibit called Interventions featuring incredible work by Marianna Gartner.

If I were alive, I’d love to see how Marianna would have painted me. In particular, if her interpretation would have included that haunting Viennese stare, like with “long haired boy” to the left. Would she embellish my vanity by painting diamonds into my ankle-length tresses? Would my waist be cinched with ship-docking chain? Oh, but Marianna would have had a field day with my exercise apparatuses!

I truly appreciate the burgeoning irony in the Austrian character, and what better place to foist it on the public than in the ostentatious baroque halls of the Upper Belvedere?

a paint by produce portrait

court painter arcimboldo's view of the archduke

The Emperor had four portraits of me painted before he gave the nod.  Four!  Which meant I had to sit on a perch, all day long, on four different occasions whilst the artists squinted, rubbed and stroked their way to failure.

But, in the artists’ defense: it’s hard to please the monarchy and the subject, both.  A good portrait must flatter, accentuate, capture a mood, and, well, tell a story.

Before our wedding, the story the Emperor wanted to tell of me is that I was nymphlike, graceful, supple and kind.  O, and spunky as well! He wanted a picture of me that aligned with his deepest fantasy.  A bare shoulder, but not so bare that the portrait would cause arousal of the entire Court.  My flushed cheeks should hint that I’d just come in from a long, brisk walk–reminiscent of the first time we met, when he dumped my sister and asked for my hand in marriage.

On these details three attempts failed.

In one I am too wan. In the second, my hair is not lively enough.  The third made me look fat.  Time ticked on.  At last, the fourth portrait was accepted!

Really, I long for the days of my ancestors, when Arcimboldo’s veggie tales were in vogue.  Arcimboldo got away with turning popes and kings into fanciful platters of produce: actual peaches for cheeks!  Hair sprouting grapes and corn!  Had he been alive during my Habsburg reign, I should have loved to witness my life as a collection of nightshade fruits and wholesome grain.

the battle in das herzog max palais

Life in Munich was quite busy, and even from my sequester, I watched out the window as carriages came and went.  Papa had agreed that while the turmoil surrounded Uncle Ludwig’s palace, we would house some paintings in our halls, and four large men hauled in an enormous picture, one replete with angels and battles and swords and blood.  There was the Messiah in the very middle of this painting, about to stab Himself with a dagger, and in the very corner, a suspicious character fleeing the scene.  I had heard from the maids that the villain in the painting was a Jew, and it was best that while the revolutionaries marched on Uncle’s castle, we be the keepers of that one.

our home was a battleground, like this big painting we'd borrowed from our uncle, the king

In all the mayhem, most pronounced was a renewed battle between my parents.  Echoing off the vast halls of our castle I could hear Papa screaming at Mummi, “You were born an old lady, Ludovica!”

And Mummi: “You have made me that way, you reckless Duke!”

Mummi did not approve of the parties day and night in Papa’s beer hall.  The peasant girls he danced with.  The trick riding in the newly converted circus.  “And if you get trampled in a drunken heap under your horse, what then?” Mummi wanted to know.