The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Sarah Bernhardt

Sarah Bernhardt

Born in Paris, the illegitimate daughter of a Hungarian Jewish immigrant, Sarah Bernhardt was the stage name of Rosine Bernard (1845-1923), the French actress who dominated the stage of her day. She was neither the most beautiful nor the most talented, but she skilfully cultivated her super-stardom, performing at the Comédie Française in Paris and frequently touring the world. The Divine Sarah excelled in tragic roles, including Cordelia in King Lear, the title role in Racine's Phèdre, and the male roles of Hamlet and of Napoleon's son in Edmond Rostand's L'Aiglon.

Photographed by Nadar of Paris.

Born Félix Tournachon in Paris in 1820, Nadar was a theatre critic, writer, publisher of literary magazines and a successful caricaturist before he took up photography in 1854. His talent and originality (plus an astonishing aptitude for self-promotion) ensured that he quickly became the most famous photographer of his day. He was the first to work with artificial light taking photographs in the Paris catacombs, and when he became a keen balloonist, he naturally took his cameras with him, taking the first aerial photographs of his native city. The vast studio that he opened in1860 at 35 Boulevard des Capucines drew customers of name and rank, and members of the bohemian circle. At night, his famous sign - his own scarlet signature across the façade of the building - was illuminated by gas flames.

Code: 124428
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