The Story Behind the Photograph of Archduke Ludwig of Austria in Travesty

By Dominik Böhler

The lugubrious, mildly terrifying young man returning your startled gaze is Archduke Ludwig Viktor nicknamed “Luzi Wuzi” – youngest brother of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph – who was born in 1842. “Thanks to inbreeding the Habsburgs generally found themselves on a physical attraction scale sliding from homely to hideous.”,  says James J. Conway an Australian writer based in Berlin. And he is right. A weird imperial family. He looked scary.

The image is made in Salzburg by the famous photography studio of the time Baldi & Würthle around the year 1870. Luzi was exiled by his brother, the emperor, after an incident when Ludwig hit on an officer who, instead of removing the Imperial and Apostolic hand from his leg and uttering a polite but firm “Nein, danke”, gave the archduke a black eye. To avoid further scandal the emperor sent Archduke Ludwig at Schloss Kleßheim in Salzburg.

He was a flighty, pleasure-seeking, who loved the theatre, collected art and antiques, wore women’s clothing, bitched incessantly and couldn’t be trusted with a secret.

Though Ludwig’s military career foundered, he always had an eye for a comely soldier, a weakness which triggered his expulsion from Vienna. His inclination had always been an open secret, and Franz Joseph had even joked that he should be given a ballerina as an adjutant to ensure nothing untoward would transpire. Ludwig was getting reckless and had a reputation for spending hours in the Centralbad, a prestigious complex of Orientalist steam baths, where his hands were apt to wander. 

Today his ghost feels right at home in the Centralbad; it is now Kaiserbründl (Imperial Spring), one of Europe’s most luxurious gay saunas.

Dominik Böhler is the Chief Adviser and writer of GAY45. PhD candidate, passionate about the transcendence of science in the philosophical stance that emphasizes the individual and social potential and agency of human beings. Works in Vienna and commutes to England at the University of Oxford where to continue the DPhil (doctoral) programme in Information, Communication, and the Social Sciences. Böhler does not have a social media presence.

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