June 22, 2011

Family Tree: Meet Marieˈs Sister Maria Christine

Self Portrait, Maria Christine, Archduchess of Austria (1742-98). Oil on canvas, 1776.  Kunsthistorisches Museum or Schönbrunn Palace.
Maria Christine was the second eldest daughter of Maria Theresa, and was often noted as the empress' favorite daughter. Known as Mimi to the family, she grew up with a keen passion for fine arts, and developed her own skills in the art of drawing and painting.  Her taste for the arts would follow her through adulthood, and she was fortunate enough to share this love with her husband, Albert of Saxony.

Alexandre Roslin, Archduchess Marie Christine, 1778.
Albertina, Vienna (on permanent loan from the Austrian National Library, Vienna)

Her marriage also struck a sore note with her other siblings, as she selected her own husband.  Maria Theresa had many designs for her children, and arranging marriages was a priority.   The first choice for the archduchess was Prince Benedetto of Savoy, but her preferred prince was Albert of Saxony. She may have pulled her favorite daughter card, or perhaps the timing of her entreaties to her mother pulled heart strings (shortly after her fathers' death).  One account mentions the wedding celebrated with black decor, as it was the morning period after the death of Francis I.  Others mention the effort Maria Theresa put forth to make the celebration a happy one, in such a sad time, particularly for the empress.

Anonymous, Albert of Saxe-Teschen, 1777.  Albertina, Vienna.
 Albert, who was four years her senior, and took the title Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen.  By 1780 they were governors of the Netherlands, only to move to move back to Vienna in 1792. The couple's passion for art led them to own a great art collection which is now housed at the Albertina Museum in  Vienna.  We are fortunate that in 1816, Albert added a bit to his will about the collection, naming [the collection] an "inalienable Habsburg family inheritance."

Rococo Room at Albertina Museum, Vienna. Photograph by Anna Blau.

6 comments

  1. I liked the article very much, I'm very interested in Maria Cristina. And I went to the Albertina Museum one or two years ago and the art collection there (both ancient and modern if I remember correctly) was impressive! They even had some amazing drawings by Albert Durer.
    Keep up the great blog! :)

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  2. @Anonymous I can't wait to visit this museum! After going through nearly the entire website I was very impressed with the amazing rooms and furniture, did you find it was very large? Thanks!

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  3. Loved this post, Lauren:) I find her the prettiest of the sisters- and probably the luckiest. What a rare thing in royalty to be able to pick your beau. And in this case lucky enough that the choice pleased mom too! Thanks:)

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  4. @Lauren I remember there was a whole, huge basement for modern exhibitions, and the upstairs were the old apartments. I have to say, although it had really great paintings I was amazed with the rooms, there was a lot of them, some very large, and the furniture was beautiful!! I particularly remember the largest one, I think it had statues of art muses. It was a really fantastic place to visit :)

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  5. What a fascinating woman! I have to say I was absolutely enchanted by the tiny spinning wheel in her portrait. As a knitter/spinner I know we are in some ways still suffering from the way ladies tried to make these crafts more genteel and pretty, but I'm still mystified by that lovely little wheel. ;)

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  6. In the 18th century it was fashionable to have a pretty little wheel and spin fine thread for some project. Online research says the Musee Carnavalet in Paris has the wheel Marie Antoinette had with her in prison. As this lady is her sister, it is not surprising she had one too.

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