The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Mlle Marie Vernon

Mlle Marie Vernon

Born Marie-Eugénie Renom, she adopted the name Marie Vernon when she became a dancer. On 30 January 1865 she married the influential journalist Adolphe Gaïffe (1830-1903), friend of Théophile Gautier and associate of Victor Hugo. Marie Vernon retired from the stage and went to live with her husband at Maisons-sur-Seine (today Maisons-Laffitte). In 1870 they acquired the Château d’Oron in Switzerland, where they raised three children: Jean, Daniel and Louise.

Marie Vernon is seen here in the role of Fenella in Auber’s La Muette de Portici, in which she first appeared on 19 January 1863. Originally titled Masaniello, the plot concerns a Neapolitan uprising against Spanish rule in 1647.

A painting by Hébert inspired her costume. The conventional ballet skirts have been discarded in favour of a loosely hanging ankle-length skirt and on her head she is wearing the traditional magnosa of Neapolitan peasant-women.

Mlle Vernon played the role regularly for two years. ‘She was so anxious to succeed, that her miming was somewhat forced, but it had the merit of being clear and comprehensible, for her features were surprisingly mobile and expressive for a beauty such as hers.’ [Ivor Guest, The Ballet of the Second Empire: 1858-1870, London, 1953.]

Photographed by A. A. E. Disdéri.

Code: 123983
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