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Lisztomania: Hungarian Composer-Pianist Franz Liszt as Artist-Dandy, 1841-1860

The Victorian Age: A History of Dress, Textiles, and Accessories, 1819–1901

Association of Dress Historians, International Conference of Dress Historians. London, October 25-26, 2019

Beau Brummell (1778–1840) may be known as the ultimate nineteenth century dandy, but he was by no means the only individual worthy of the title. The world–renowned Hungarian composer and pianist, Franz Liszt (1811–1886) exhibited many of the material–aesthetic and personality traits that his contemporaries, Jules Barbey D’Aurevilly (1808–1889) and Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850), identified in their essays on dandyism. Liszt’s flair for fashion certainly revealed him to be a sartorially concerned man. However, it was his personal style and the cult– like “Lisztomania” he inspired, that truly qualified him as an artist–dandy, the likes of which Balzac identified in his Treatise on Elegant Living. In fact, even after Liszt forewent fashionable attire upon his ordination as abbé in the Catholic Church, his legendary personality continued to captivate audiences, including Queen Victoria, for whom he performed during the last year of his life. In an analysis of his lesser–known portraits, this paper presents Liszt’s sartorial evolution, delineating the major transitional points of his life from a child prodigy clothed in a pelisse à la hussar, to a virtuoso swathed in fine textiles, and finally, to a modestly dressed clergyman in a priest’s cassock.

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