Riding hat worn by Empress Elisabeth fetches $186,500 at Vienna auction

Wed Apr 30, 2014 5:30pm EDT
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By Derek Brooks

VIENNA (Reuters) - A riding hat believed to have been worn by Austro-Hungarian Empress Elisabeth, called "Sisi" by family and friends, fetched 134,500 euros ($186,500) at a Vienna auction, more than 50 times higher than expected.

Elisabeth was the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I, a selection of whose personal items were also highly sought-after at Wednesday's sale of imperial memorabilia.

"The hat I think is the most interesting object, although we are not sure if it belonged to Sisi or her daughter," said Georg Ludwigstorff, the auction specialist in charge.

"There is always high interest in the Habsburgs' personal items - especially those of Elisabeth," Ludwigstorff said.

The auction at Austria's Dorotheum took place as Vienna prepares to mark 100 years since the June 28, 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, which lit the fuse for World War One.

Katrin Unterreiner, curator of the Plachutta Kaiserhaussammlung, the biggest private Habsburg imperial collection, was thrilled to acquire Sisi's ermine muff for 3,750 euros.

"I was very surprised. I actually excepted it to go higher. But that’s the exciting thing about auctions. You never know what will happen," Unterreiner said.

Sisi, a beauty and free spirit who continues to intrigue biographers, novelists and film makers, was assassinated by an Italian anarchist in 1898.   Continued...

Former Austrian empress Elisabeth's blue Corfu gown, worn on Habsburg vacations to the Greek island, is on display at Sisi museum in Vienna April 23, 2014. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader