The Butterfly’s Wing: author’s notes

July 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

To (hopefully) clear up any confusion…


Part 1

‘Ein Stück Esterhazytorte und ein Melange, bitte’: A piece of Esterhazy torte and a mélange, please. (Esterhazy torte:  a torte composed of alternating layers of buttercream and almond meringue; mélange: equal amounts of coffee and frothed milk, the Viennese equivalent of a cappuccino)

Jessica’s experience in the Albertina study room is, sadly, not much of an exaggeration. It is the unfriendliest print room I’ve ever used.

‘Bitte … ich möchte …allein sein mit dieser Zeichnung’: Please, I’d like to be alone with this drawing.

‘Das ist verboten’: That is forbidden.

That shop in the Kärntnerstrasse with the Schiele chocolate boxes really does exist.

As of 2012, the part of the Ringstrasse named after Karl Lueger has been renamed, at the behest of Nobel Prize-winner Eric Kandel. It took twelve years to happen. There is still at least one square in Vienna named after Lueger.


Part 3

Schmetterling’s card has the format of a 19th-/early 20th-century death announcement.


Part 5

Jessica should have kept her ring on her right hand (wedding and engagement rings are worn on the right hand in Austria). That said, she could always play the ‘confused foreigner’ card.

I took some liberties with history in putting Joseph Roth in the café at this date (I don’t know whether he became an habitué then or when he was older).


Part 6

No photograph of Schiele laughing exists (as far as I know). However, his discussion of his marriage plans is taken almost verbatim from one of his letters. Sorry to dash the illusions of anyone who was under the mistaken impression that he was a romantic (or particularly nice) person.


Part 7

A line activates a surface, forcing it to acknowledge its latent charge: the author of these words is David Rosand (who teaches at Columbia, not the Institute of Fine Arts… oops).

Jessica’s portrait is a composite of several – Schiele’s two portraits of Elisabeth Lederer (both done in 1912), two later portraits of Edith in which she is shown wearing a purple cardigan, and a portrait of his sister-in-law Adele in a pose similar to Jessica’s (leaning forward, elbows on her thighs and hands clasped).


Part 9

I had great difficulty trying to find out the buying power of Habsburg currency in 1914. The few things I was able to glean were that in 1913 (presumably this still held true in early 1914, before war broke out) a crown would buy you 1.5 kilos of sugar, and that a Vienna tram ticket cost 19 hellers (1 crown = 100 hellers).

Friederike Maria Beer paid Schiele 600 crowns for her portrait (a large-scale oil painting that likely required multiple sittings), so the 30 crowns Jessica leaves in the match safe, quite apart from the symbolism of the sum, is probably a fair price for the drawing. By the end of the month, when Schiele’s landlord threatened him with eviction, he was 1500 crowns in debt, so 30 crowns wouldn’t have made much of a dent but would likely have kept him and Wally in food and fuel (or at least, a lot of sugar and tram tickets) for a while.

In light of this, paying 10 crowns for a cab journey is the height of foolishness.


Part 10

Lurion’s: a café on the Stubenring with wall paintings by Hans Makart, the artist considered by the Secessionists to epitomize everything wrong with art in Vienna. It still exists, although it is now called Café Prückel and the Makart paintings have long since been replaced by a 1950s décor.

‘Können Sie bitte wiederholen?’: Could you please repeat yourself?


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