The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

 
 
 
Sarah Bernhardt

Sarah Bernhardt


An albumen print portrait of the sublime Sarah Bernhardt, seen here wearing a white trouser suit and standing next to a sculpted bust of herself. The portrait is known to have been taken in 1876.

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.

A shameless self-publicist throughout her long career, Sarah Bernard was photographed time and again by all the best photographers in the world, invariably demanding to be paid up front, rather than accepting a percentage of the profits. At the same time, of course, she was wielding photography to foster her fame, skilfully manipulating her public image. As famous a personality as she was an actress, the public were avid for details of her temper tantrums and her violent feuds, not to mention her many love affairs.

Photographed by Mélandri of 19, rue Clauzel, Paris.

 

Code: 124433
 
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© Paul Frecker 2018