31 December 2014

G'schichten aus dem Wienerwald

or, Tales from the Vienna Woods...

“All the music of the 19th century seemed to surround us. Roses and pleasure and dancing were everywhere."
- Diana Vreeland, Special Consultant, Costume Institute, Forward, The Imperial Style: Fashions of the Hapsburg Era

In celebration of Little Augury's year end-and its beginning on New Year's Eve 2008, Austria is In the Air. From Paris-to London-to the States, one can almost hear the strains of Strauss... Carolyn Quartermaine is in Austria at the moment, & Philip Bewley is on the West Coast, but they are in concert when In Vienna.

 (all photography by Carolyn Quatermaine, and text by Philip Bewley)

Carolyn Quartermaine’s recent trips to Vienna have inspired a new photography series. A designer and artist as well as photographer, Quatermaine’s depiction of Vienna and its environs are a pictorial dreamscape: a time-slip into that city’s Baroque interiors, coffee houses, gardens and woods. Quartermaine employs photography to convey idea and mood. The shots are often oblique suggesting movement... as though seen from the corner of the eye.


Quartermaine’s Vienna is a series of impressions and imagery, each one relating to the next: the sunlight though a balustrade and imperial white painted gates wrought like lace; the sinuous and serpentine lines of a Thonet bentwood settee and woodland leaves swirling in circles like a waltz. For all of the romantic associations in Quartermaine’s subjects, there is always a watchful restraint in all her work, conveying just enough and no more. Utilizing new technologies in photography with an iPhone, iPad and her own unique apps, Quartermaine’s photography combines the evocation of heady atmosphere in a rigorous, minimal way, at once engaging the imagination of the viewer and pushing the medium of photography into the 21st century.


“It's the thing that isn't obvious or noticed,” Shares Quartermaine. “When I look at groups of photographs after I’ve taken them, I see that I’m always linking between things.  Intuition and instinct are ALL. It’s the tiny things no one thinks important that are far closer to the soul of anything.

Quartermaine’s interest and fascination with Vienna began years ago, and this visit became very personal. “My granny was Austrian so this place was strangely familiar. It's all there: the rooms, the coffee, little lace curtains, the intimacy.”

All that we associate with Vienna is contained within each of Quartermaine’s photographs: the coffee houses with forests of Thonet hat-stands and the artist Gustave Klimt and his companion and model Emilie Flog; court architecture and music and the beautiful and tragic Empress Elizabeth, known as Sisi, glancing over her shoulder wearing a diadem of diamond stars. “There is something different about those bars and coffee houses. You just feel that people actually read in them.  And then there are the aromas, and the cake.”

 “Vienna…those paintings by Klimt, seeing the pattern on Emilie’s dress, and then you see of course the tiles but you also see the trees, leaves and the shadows and its all the same. Emilie, Klimt’s companion, wearing a white gown appearing like paper…like a moonlight walk.” Quartermaine adds, “Then there is that Hapsburg magic and the sheer weight of it all. In the area around the grand gate the cobbles resonate with the sounds of the horses’ hooves. Peering through flowers, through leaves, through lace, through gates… architecture, nature and trace memory all coalesce.”

The portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1865) of the star-crossed Empress Elizabeth, one of the most fascinating and romantic personages of Hapsburg Vienna, has always beguiled viewers to Vienna, including Diana Vreeland who wrote, 
“I fell in love with the divine full-length portrait of the empress Elizabeth with her magnificent hair filled with diamond stars. I rarely believe anything I see in a painting, but I make an exception for Winterhalter’s portrait of Elizabeth. He shows her, as she was, a fantasy, a dream. Fantasy queen of a fantasy world, a dream empress of a century in flight from itself.”

In personal correspondence to Quartermaine, Florian Köchert, member of the Austrian court jewelers Köchert, writes in some detail on the background of these legendary diamond stars: “Sisi’s (Empress Elizabeth) husband, the emperor, ordered 27 Stars from Köchert given to her at their wedding day as a gift.

 Sisi was inspired for the diamond stars watching Mozart's Magic Flute at the opera. In that particular performance the Queen of the Night wore a dark blue dress full of stars, wearing stars also in her hair. She disregarded the royal court and the people in it, and became nocturnal. She went horse riding at night, exasperating her ladies in waiting. She preferred the night, as there were no people around and she was able to do as she pleased. Sisi, I believe, felt like a queen of the night herself.”

Quartermaine brings the viewer directly into Sisi’s world, into the places where the empress walked; evoking the sounds she would have heard. There are echoes of splendor and ruin, delight and yearning. In her foreword to the book, The Imperial Style: Fashions of the Hapsburg Era, Diana Vreeland addresses this particular Viennese atmosphere:

“The empire of Austria-Hungary as we are showing it to you is a sumptuous array of 19th century aristocratic elegance –the court clothes, the liveries, the equipage, the military uniforms, the whiteness of the gloves, the polish of the boots. Here is Vienna, a graceful city in a graceful time, its streets and avenues filled with stately carriages and the glory of the animal; the lovely women in pale clothes, so fond of fresh flowers, strolling through the delightful parks of the Achonbrunn; the gallant men with their splendid dragoon helmet shining in the sun and bright green aigrettes blowing in the wind.

Beneath the ostentation of the scarlet and the gold, of the gilt and brass, beneath the clatter of swords and hoof beats, there was something more touching, more poignant. It was the rule of the emperor that no nobleman could appear at court except dressed in uniform. They were prepared to do battle with every enemy except that which would vanquish them –time.”

Quartermaine reflects on her Viennese impressions: “You feel that the roses there are gathering and moving. There are those sounds in the woods reminiscent of swishing tulle and lace and silk. The leaves swirling too, like a waltz and again, the roses. They did seem different there and I don't know why.”


- Diana Vreeland, Special Consultant, Costume Institute, Forward, The Imperial Style: Fashions of the Hapsburg Era
(Based on the exhibition Fashions of the Hapsburg Era: Austria-Hungary at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979-1980)
Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, distributed by Rizzoli, 1980


  1. Happy New Year! Beautiful Post and congratulations on Little Augury's 6th Birthday.
    xoxo Mary

  2. Happy Birthday to Little Augury! And Happy New Year to you Gaye. Between you, me and Karl, Austria is most definitely in the air. Cheers!

  3. And I of course meant to add - beautiful post!

  4. Sisi & Gaye...Quartermaine & Turbeville...Women who see the World while wearing the Veil of Beauty! Happy 2015 to you and your family of readers so devoted.
    A few days ago, I fell they thru a door of the mind into the world of Sisi and her Diamond Stars. Aside from the Mad King Ludwig connection and shared Marie Antoinette devotion, which I had known of...I never realized she suffered from what is now known as Anorexia in her pursuit of Beauty, using Spermicides and oils secretively mixed for skin treatments, drinking a broth created only by the blood of raw meat or eating eggs only, weighing 110 lbs at 5'10" and having herself sewn into leather corsets to maintain a 16" waist...not to be removed daily but as a devotee of The Art of Tightlacing...which is rather a form of bondage for its painful and deadly results to the pulmonary system in the end. A woman most captured by Winterhalter to Lagerfeld...a woman of Beauty!

  5. Happy Seven Years of Blogging! And here's to Seven times Seven more! I love your blog so much. THank you for sharing your visions with us. xoxox Erica

  6. Dear Gaye,
    Wishing you all the best in 2015 and I am so very grateful for the beauty you bring into my world.
    Quartermaine's latest photography is breathtaking, mesmerizing and evokes so many moods even difficult to describe!

    Featuring "Inner Spaces"



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