Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Seven Years’ Cake War: Sachertorte



With its velvety chocolate icing and lashings of tangy apricot jam, Sachertorte has become Austria’s national dessert. But the history of this luxurious chocolate cake is as rich and as dark as the Sachertorte itself.

In 1832 Prince Clemens Lother Wensel Metternich, the Austrian State Chancellor placed an order for a special dessert for himself and his dinner guests. Orders were sent to the court kitchen where there was instant mayhem; the royal pastry chef was sick. When it became clear that none of the cooks knew what to make, the 16 year old apprentice, Franz Sacher rolled up his sleeves and set about creating a dessert which was to be celebrated to this day. According to legend the recipe came from his sister Anna. The prince’s guests fell in love with the indulgent chocolate cake, and the Sachertorte was born.


Prince Clemens Lother Wensel Metternich

This was only the beginning of Franz Sacher’s success story. The Sachertorte, along with some of his other desserts made him prosperous, and he was able to open several cafes and restaurants. He handed down his secret recipe to his son, Eduard Sacher, who also trained as a pastry chef at the imperial and royal pastry store Demel. Eduard refined his father’s recipe, honing and perfecting it until it became the dish we know and love today. Demel was the first pastry store to sell the Original Sachertortre.

In 1876 Eduard Sacher opened the hotel Sacher. The Sachertorte became a staple of the menu there. Its popularity around Vienna grew and was a favourite of the imperial family. Sacher’s kitchen, staffed by four chefs, exclusively made this special chocolate cake. Up to 400 Sachertorten were sold a day and sent to Paris, Berlin and London by sea


Eduard Sacher died in 1892, leaving his wife Anna to run the hotel. After her death in 1930, the hotel was sold. The son of Anna and Eduard Sacher, also called Eduard Sacher, found employment at the pastry store Demel. He transferred the sole selling rights for the Eduard Sachertorte to Demel.


In 1938 the new owner of the Hotel Sacher started to sell the Sachertorte from vendor carts, selling the cake as the Original Sachertorte, which he registered as a trade mark. This Original Sachertorte, had two layers of apricot jam, one underneath the chocolate glaze and one in the middle of the cake itself. It was also made with margarine instead of butter.

The pastry store Demel was furious. This was the beginning of a long-standing feud between the two businesses. The time period between 1950 and 1957 is referred as the Seven Years Cake War between Demel and Sacher. Both parties were fighting about the right to use the term Original Sachertorte, about the second layer of apricot jam in the middle of the cake and the use of margarine instead of butter. In 1965 Sacher and Demel made an out-of-court agreement, giving Hotel Sacher exclusive rights to name their cake Original Sachertorte. Demel’s Sachertorte, with its one layer of jam, received the official title Eduard Sachertorte. The stand off over the famous Austrian cake was over and peace was restored to Vienna once more.

These days almost 1000 Sachertorten are produced every single day by the Hotel Sacher. Every year 1.2 million eggs, 80 tons of sugar, 70 tons of chocolate, 37 tons of apricot jam, 25 tons of butter and 30 tons of flour are needed. There is one assistant who is just responsible to crack 7500 eggs every single day!

The sumptuous cake, Sachertorte is best enjoyed with a generous dollop of cream and a steaming pot of coffee.



Emma Rose Millar is author of the award winning novel FIVE GUNS BLAZING. Her second novel, THE WOMEN FRIENDS: SELINA, will be published by Crooked Cat Books in December 2016. For further details, visit her author page on Amazon.

Klimt and Judith I

Klimt and Judith I

Wonderful post about Gustav Klimt by Miriam Drori

An' de walls came tumblin' down

The story of Judith and Holofernes is told in the Apocryphal Book of Judith (a text not  included in the Jewish canon but preserved in the Christian tradition). The story’s plot develops in the context of Nebuchadnezzar’s military campaigns against his neighbours, including the nation of Israel. Under the command of Holofernes, the Assyrian army besieges  the Jewish city of Bethulia and cuts off its water supply. When the thirst becomes unbearable, the town elders decide to surrender to the enemy. At this critical point in the story, Judith, a wealthy widow famous for her beauty and wisdom, appears on the scene. Rebuking the town elders for their  lack of faith, she bravely sets out with her handmaiden for the enemy camp, plotting Holofernes’ downfall. The Assyrian commander is captivated by her beauty, and invites her to his tent. During a feast in her honour, Judith gets Holofernes drunk and…

View original post 594 more words

Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele: Master and Prodigy


Gustav Klimt was a generous artist who mentored numerous students during his career, the most notorious of these being the young Egon Schiele. But Klimt and Schiele’s relationship was a complex one that went way beyond that of master and pupil. As their relationship intensified, their professional and personal lives became increasingly intertwined.


Egon Schiele, Self Portrait


Egon Schiele was born in 1890 in Tulin, Lower Austria. His classmates saw him as an eccentric boy, shy and reserved, who only excelled in drawing and sport. Schiele was a troubled child, known to have had incestuous tendencies towards his sister. He was held back a year and educated in a class with younger children.

When Schiele was 15, his father died of syphilis; his maternal uncle, Leopold Czihaczek took over his care. Schiele’s uncle recognised his artistic talent and employed a tutor for him, the artist Ludwig Karl Strauch. In 1906, Schiele was given a place at the Kunstgewerbeschule, (Vienna School of Arts and Crafts). Within his first year, at the insistence of some of his tutors, he was sent to the more traditional Akademie der Bildenden Kunste. But the strict doctrines and conservative style there frustrated him so much that he left three years later.

At that time, Gustav Klimt was mentoring younger artists; Schiele sought him out. Klimt took a particular interest in Schiele, buying his drawings, arranging models and introducing him to potential patrons and to the Wiener Werkstatte, the arts and craft workshop of the Secession. Klimt and Schiele embarked upon a mentor-student relationship that was to last throughout their careers.


Egon Schiele, The Hermits


It is easy to see how much Schiele admired Klimt’s work. Their paintings are often very similar in terms of both subject matter and style. Below, Klimt’s Death and Life, (1910) depicts figures cocooned within an arch shape against a background of brightly coloured flowers. Death looks on but the figures seem oblivious to him; the painting exudes beauty and calm.

Schiele took details from Klimt’s celebration of life – the middle aged couple, locked in a loving embrace – and created something much more macabre. In Death and the Woman, 1915, (above right), we still see this arch shaped cocoon, but the flowers have gone and the fabric appears shroud-like. The figure of Death is no longer a distant observer; he has entered the arch and the woman welcomes him. Indeed it appears as if she has crawled to him on her bended knees and now finds solace in his embrace.

In Klimt’s Death and Life, the new mother appears content as she sleeps, cradling her baby. In his Dead Mother series, Schiele echoes this pose, whilst setting his figures against dark backgrounds. The woman’s expression is one of anguish as Death creeps towards her, staring blankly at her belly. Her baby reaches out, seemingly trapped inside the womb.

Above top, Detail from Death and Life

Above left, Egon Schiele, (1910) The Dead Mother; above right, Egon Schiele, (1911) The Pregnant Woman and Death

Both artists had an obsession with the female form, painting many women nude or performing sexual acts. But while Klimt acknowledged female pleasure in his work, recreating women as beautiful, sensual beings, Schiele’s women with their twisted body shapes make for much more uncomfortable viewing. While Klimt’s women recline against floral backdrops and gold leaf, there is nothing to soften the starkness of Schiele’s paintings.

In 1912, Schiele was convicted of showing these paintings to an under aged girl and sentenced to 24 days in prison.

As the years passed, it seems artistic influence became somewhat of a two-way process. The bright, mosaic-like colours, flat visual planes and oriental motifs at first glance make it difficult to distinguish one artist’s work from the other’s. Klimt’s 1916 portrait of Friederike Maria Beer-Monti, (below right) clearly echoes Schiele’s earlier portrait. Stand back from Klimt’s painting and the oriental figures in the background seem to melt away, becoming almost identical to the fabric in Schiele’s work, with its vibrant, blocky zigzag pattern.


Above left: Egon Schiele, Portrait of Friederike Maria Beer-Monti, (1914); Above right: Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Friederike Maria Beer-Monti, (1916)

In 1911, Klimt and Schiele became embroiled in a love triangle. Valerie Neuzil was one of Klimt’s models, and rumoured to be his lover, but in 1911, she embarked on a four year affair with Schiele, moving into his home in southern Bohemia. By 1916, she was posing again for Klimt.


Egon Schiele, (1911) Portrait of Valerie Neuzil

Schiele died in 1918 of Spanish Influenza, aged just 28. Gustav Klimt died earlier the same year. Even in death it seems they were inseparable. Schiele remains one of the most controversial artists of the 20th century, both for his startling paintings and his troubled personal life.


Head Over Heels – The Fickle World of Women’s Shoes, 1880 – 1929


Only 150 years ago, women’s shoes were hidden in the shadows of crinolines and trailing skirts.


The archless, low heeled shoes of the mid-Victorian era were the embodiment of dignified restraint, indeed a lady was expected not to show her feet at all! But with calls for greater equality between the sexes, and the many dress reform movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries came rising hemlines. Women’s shoes emerged into the limelight and exploded onto the fashion scene.

Corsets and tight lacing were shunned by the modern woman in favour of loser, more flowing dresses. This was reflected in footwear. Shoes for Comfort, became the slogan of the reform period, both in women’s and in men’s shoes. There were new opportunities in sport, educational, professional and social activities, all requiring different styles of shoes. Manufacturers quickly seized upon the demand for day, evening and sports shoes with thousands finding employment in the shoe industry.

For the Edwardian lady, there were evening shoes – heavily beaded slippers – made for dinner, dancing and weddings. The most common style was the Mary Jane, having a thin strap which ended in a button made from mother of pearl, metal or crystal.


1902 Wedding Shoes


1912 Blue Beaded Pumps

Galoshes were the fashionable walking shoe, made from leather and often decorated with stitching, eyelets, and other embellishments. These shoes were either buttoned or laced. During the warmer months, Oxfords and simple low heeled pumps, without ties or buttons were donned for walking.


At the end of WWI as hem lines began to rise, designers introduced the new high kid boots in fashionable colours of bronze, blue and pearl grey, making the black shoes of the pre-war years look very old-hat indeed!

But with the end of the war came huge social change. The 1920s was a time of optimism; the war was over and women were seizing the moment. This was the era of the Charleston, talking movies, jazz, bathtub gin and flapper girls, who wore makeup, bobbed hair and short, shapeless dresses. Legs were covered with cream or black stockings New fashions demanded a shoe which would complement a woman’s wardrobe and show off her legs to their best advantage. Also, women who danced the night away needed lightweight shoes, which wouldn’t fall of their feet as they kicked up their heels.

tumblr_inline_n6jqa9wm3r1rsufewT-bars and straps were all the rage. High shoes were completely out of fashion; low shoes for all seasons and climates took the lead, remaining the favourite form of footwear to this day.

These days, just about anything goes in ladies’ shoes, from clumpy work style boots to ballet pumps and platform soles with stiltlike heels. But take a quick look back in time and it’s very easy to see where 21st century designers find their inspiration.


Emma Rose Millar is author of the award winning novel FIVE GUNS BLAZING. Her novella THE WOMEN FRIENDS: SELINA, co-written with Miriam Drori and inspired by Gustav Klimt’s paintings will be published by Crooked Cat Books in December 2016. For further details visit Emma’s Amazon Author Page

Must Love Machetes: The Legend of Pirate Anne Bonny


Fabulous post from Dirty Sexy History about one of my favourite villains… Anne Bonny.

Dirty, Sexy History

Anne_bonny Anne Bonny. Anushka Holding, 2016.

Anne Bonny was born in Cork around 1690 to lawyer William McCormac and his servant, Mary Brennan. The scandal of Anne’s birth caused her father to lose much of his practice as well as his wife, so he took Mary and Anne to Charleston, South Carolina, and set up a new practice there. William – now going by Cormac – was so successful in his new home that he was able to buy a large plantation and Anne grew up in some degree of comfort.

Even by thirteen she was said to be stunningly beautiful, and had more than her fair share of suitors. Lovely as she was, she would soon be known more for her “fierce and courageous temper.” When one suitor attempted to rape her as a teenager, Anne beat him so badly he was bedridden for weeks.

Anne was passionate, capable, and…

View original post 1,006 more words

Gustav Klimt and Japanese Rinpa Tradition

Gustav Klimt and Japanese Rinpa Tradition

Gustav Klimt may never have set foot in Japan, but his enchantment with Japanese art and design was abundantly evident in his paintings.

In the late eighteenth century, Japonism swept through Europe, influencing the work of French artists like Van Gogh and Cezanne. For Klimt, whose early work was faithful to the principals of realism, these new stimuli gave rise to a change in style. In his later work we see flat visual planes, strong colours, patterned surfaces and linear outlines.


Gustav Klimt, Hope II, (1908)

He also began to incorporate Japanese textiles into his art. His long term friend, Emilie Flöge was a collector of Japanese textile designs and it is known that the pair created several dresses together.

Klimt particularly admired the Rinpa School, one of the major historical schools of Japanese painting.  The Rinpa School was founded in Kyoto in 1615 by artists Hon’ami Koetsu and Tawaraya Sotatsu who produced numerous works of ceramics, calligraphy and lacquerware, decorative fans, kimono textiles and folding screens. They also specialised in making decorative paper using calligraphy on gold and silver backgrounds.

During the decades that followed, the Rinpa school went through several revivals. In the late seventeenth century, brothers Ogata Korin and Otaga Kenzan began depicting nature by mixing numerous colours and hues on the surface to achieve unusual effects. They also made liberal use of gold, pearl and other precious substances. The style was characterised by flowers, birds, plants and flowers set against gold leaf, (below).

Perhaps Klimt’s most famaus painting from his ‘Golden Phase’ was the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, (below left), but he also used gold leaf in many of his other works including his Tree of Life, (below right), whose swirling pattern echoes Ogata Korin’s work.

Flowers and birds were also favourite motifs of Klimt’s. For example, in one of his last paintings, The Women Friends, (1917), the lovers are surrounded by the glorious phoenix, and symbols of doom: the raven and the red eyed swan.


Gustav Klimt, The Women Friends, (1917)

During his career, Gustav Klimt absorbed several influences and created a wholly unique style that changed and developed throughout his life. However, his association with Japanese art made a profound difference to his work and helped to shape the beautiful, ornate paintings that are celebrated to this day.


Emma Rose Millar was born in Birmingham – a child of the seventies. She is a single mum and lives with her young son who keeps her very busy and very happy. Emma left school at 16 and later studied for an Open University degree in Humanities with English Literature. She has had a variety of jobs including chocolatier, lab technician and editorial assistant for a magazine but now works part-time as an interpreter. Emma writes and historical fiction and children’s picture books. She won the Legend category of the Chaucer Awards with FIVE GUNS BLAZING in 2014. Her novella THE WOMEN FRIENDS: SELINA, based on the work of Gustav Klimt and co-written with author Miriam Drori will be published in December 2016 by Crooked Cat Books.

Find Emma Rose Millar on Amazon


How the Victorian Corset Became a Thing of the Past

How the Victorian Corset Became a Thing of the Past

Photograph of Emilie Floge and Gustav Klimt

I recently blogged about celebrated Viennese fashion designer, Emilie Flöge, whose signature loose fitting, wide sleeved dresses featured in many paintings by Gustav Klimt.


Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Eugenia Mada Primavesi


But this style, known as Reform Dress, didn’t begin in Vienna, and its significance went way beyond being simply a fashion statement.

The task of getting dressed in the 1850s was an arduous one. Every morning, fashionable women would begin putting together structures that would create the perfect frame upon which to hang their gowns: stockings gartered above the knee, which restricted the circulation, knee length drawers and chemise, hip length vest and petticoat, a corset stiffened with strips of whalebone, which was tight laced, squeezing and rearranging the position of her internal organs. Next there was a corset cover, a bustle to make her look as if she had a ‘perfect’ bottom, and finally, another petticoat worn over the whole kit and caboodle.

4 Victorian corset.jpeg

A growing number of people – feminists, doctors and educators began warning against the physical and moral dangers of this style of dress. Physicians counselled patients against tight lacing, due to its effects on fertility and women’s health in general, while others claimed that corsetry turned women’s bodies into sexual objects, forcing the hips back and thrusting the bosom forward. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Women’s Dress Reform Movement began offering a number of stylish alternatives.

Dress reformists were largely middle class women involved in the first wave of feminism in the United States and Great Britain. At a time when women were campaigning for the suffrage, better educational opportunities etc. dress reformists also called for emancipations from the dictates of fashion.

In 1851, a New England temperance activist, Elizabeth Smith Miller adopted the bloomers suit: loose Middle Eastern style trousers, topped by a short dress. The bloomers suit was adopted by suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton and promoted enthusiastically in the fashion magazine The Lily. But it suffered ridicule in the press and harassment on the streets with many critics saying that women had lost their attractiveness and mystery.


Bloomers Suit

In the 1870s, a largely English movement led by Mary Eliza Haweis sought dress reforms that would celebrate and enhance the female form. This Aesthetic Dress Movement preferred the looser lines and draped fabrics of medieval and renaissance eras. This was echoed in the work of Pre-Raphaelite artists, who saw the corseted style as ugly and dishonest. Their own wives and models wore fabrics coloured with vegetable dye, hand embroidered with oriental designs. Their hair was unbraided and they sported puffed Juliette sleeves and flowing skirts.


John William Waterhouse, Windflowers

There were also reforms to women’s undergarments. The reform corset, or liberty bodice was a tight sleeveless vest which buttoned up the front. There were also a series of buttons along the hemline upon which the skirt and petticoats could be attached. Therefore, the weight of the clothing was supported by the whole body rather than just the waist, as had previously been the case.


By the 1920s, the women’s improved social standing inevitably brought with it marked changes in fashion. Women began wearing more masculine inspired outfits such as tailored skirt suits, ties and starched blouses. The tubular, boyish figure became the ideal, rather than the wasp-waisted silhouette of the nineteenth century. Women became accustomed to wearing more comfortable clothing in their homes and during physical activities and saw models wearing more simply designed dresses in ladies’ magazines.


All efforts towards reforming dress clearly had a lasting influence. Although corsets are still worn to this day, women’s dress reform has gone way beyond anything early activists could have imagined.


Emma Rose Millar was born in Birmingham – a child of the seventies. She is a single mum and lives with her young son who keeps her very busy and very happy. Emma left school at 16 and later studied for an Open University degree in Humanities with English Literature. She has had a variety of jobs including chocolatier, lab technician and editorial assistant for a magazine but now works part-time as an interpreter. Emma writes and historical fiction and children’s picture books. She won the Legend category of the Chaucer Awards with FIVE GUNS BLAZING in 2014. Her novella THE WOMEN FRIENDS: SELINA, based on the work of Gustav Klimt and co-written with author Miriam Drori will be published in December 2016 by Crooked Cat Books.

Find Emma Rose Millar on Amazon