Sisi and Wilhelm II: Emperors on Corfu

12 April until 11 September 2011

Sisi & Wilhelm II - Emperors on CorfuSisi & Wilhelm II - Emperors on Corfu
Queen Elisabeth (Sisi, 1837-1898)Queen Elisabeth (Sisi, 1837-1898)
German emperor Wilhelm II (1859-1941)German emperor Wilhelm II (1859-1941)
Achilles at the Achilleion on Corfu, (statue ca. 1909, by Johannes Goetz)Achilles at the Achilleion on Corfu, (statue ca. 1909, by Johannes Goetz)

The Austrian Empress Elisabeth (Sisi, 1837-1898) and the German Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) were both fascinated with the ancient world. Sisi and Wilhelm II: Emperors on Corfu brings that fascination to life.

Sisi and Wilhelm II: Emperors on Corfu

The Achilleion (Sisi's beloved Greek summer palace) and the romantic landscape of Corfu form the setting for this exhibition, which presents a selection from the personal archaeological collections of Sisi and Wilhelm, along with loans from museums in Corfu and Vienna and from Huis Doorn in the Netherlands. There will also be vases and furnishings from Sisi's palaces, as well as photographs, a travel guide, and examples of court fashion from her day. Wilhelm's passion for the ancient world will be illustrated by his collection of Greek coins and the archaeological digs that he supervised on Corfu. The exhibition will feature photographs and films of the excavations, along with portraits of Wilhelm and selected uniforms and letters.

The Achilleion: Sisi's dream palace on Corfu

Few people are aware that Sisi and Wilhelm shared a special interest in the ancient world. They also shared a great fondness for the Greek island of Corfu. There, Sisi found a romantic dream world where she could escape her worries. Between 1889 and 1892 she had a summer palace constructed there: the Achilleion, named after the famous Greek hero Achilles. Designed entirely in a classical style, it was decorated with sculptures and murals of Greek gods and myths. For Sisi, ancient art and her palace on Corfu were ways of fleeing the rigid Austrian court and her unhappy family life.

Wilhelm's admiration for Greek heroes

In 1898, Sisi was assassinated by an anarchist in Geneva. Kaiser Wilhelm II bought the palace from Sisi's daughter Gisela in 1907. Wilhelm saw the great heroes of Greek mythology as models, and his favourite was Achilles. Each spring, Wilhelm would spend time on Corfu with his imperial household and personally take charge of the excavation of a large temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis. During the later period when he lived in Huis Doorn, from 1920 until his death in 1941, Wilhelm wrote books about archaeology.

Sisi or Sissi?
Empress Elisabeth was born in Munich on 24 December 1837 as Duchess of Bavaria. She is best known as Sisi. This is what her family called her, and it was the name she used when signing personal letters. In the title of the film trilogy loosely based on her life, the spelling was altered, and this version, "Sissi", is now widely used. According to Marie Larisch-Wallersee, Elisabeth's niece, and Count E.G. Conti, her biographer, the correct spelling is "Sisi".