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BEAUTY QUEEN

Photograph from one of Empress Elisabeth  of Austria’s photo albums, ca. 1862.

I COLLECT WOMEN. The saved tab of my Instagram account contains—in addition to recipes, funny videos I intend to DM to crushes, and nimble axioms on wellness in pastel fonts—images of women, each serving a purpose for the ongoing Frankenstein project that is me: a haircut I want to get, an outfit I want to buy, a body I want to emulate. Sisi did the same, albeit without the algorithms that permit us to assemble our little archives in relative seclusion. “I am creating a beauty album,” she wrote to her brother-in-law in 1862, “and am now collecting photographs for it, only of women. Any pretty faces you can muster at Angerer’s”—i.e., Hapsburg court photographer Ludwig Angerer’s— “or other photographers, I ask you to send me.” How embarrassing. 

The West has a grand tradition of Women with Too Much Time on Their Hands. Empress Elisabeth of Austria, a key if underappreciated figure

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