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Bernhardt, Sarah)

39 Photographs.


Bernhardt, Sarah. Photographs by Nadar and others. 1862-[ ].
4 x 5 ¾ inches, mounted on printed cards 4 ½ x 6 ½ inches.
Boxed together with:
2 ¼ x 3 ½ inches, mounted on printed cards 2 ½ x 4 ¼ inches.
A collection of 39 rare photographs of Sarah Bernhardt, many by Felix Nadar. Bernhardt posed for photographs as early as 1862. While her early photographs by Nadar are monuments to artistic composition, Bernhardt's fame is due to the mass-produced albumen prints and Woodburytype photos in small carte d'visite and the larger cabinet form that carried her portrait around the world. This collection was assembled in France over the course of fifty year.
Sarah Bernhardt, "The Divine Sarah," was born Henriette-Rosine Bernard in Paris, France in 1844. She spent her life gracing the theatrical stages of the world with her interpretations of both classic and modern French drama. Following her education at the drama school of the Paris Conservatoire, Bernhardt made her theatrical debut on stage in an 1862 production of Racine's Iphigenie en Aulide. But it was not until her 1872 performance in Victor Hugo's Ruy Blas that she was recognized and established as a great theatrical actress of her time. Thereafter, at home and in a long series of tours throughout Europe and America, Bernhardt delighted audiences with her interpretations of characters in productions such as Adirenne Lecouvreur, Frou Frou, Hernani, Jeanne D'Arc, Phedre, and Theodora, to name her most beloved roles.
Bernhardt's popularity was facilitated in part by the development of photography (in other parts by her beauty and acting abilities). It was not until the development of the albumen paper process in the late 1850s, replacing the cumbersome daguerreotypes, that photographs could be widely reproduced. In the late 1860s a reproduction process called the Woodburytype, named after its English inventor Walter Bentley Woodbury, created a faster reproduced image that was very true to the original and highly luminous. This evolution of rapidly reproduced photographic portraits spawned an industry such as the world had never seen before, entirely replacing both lithography and wood engravings by the 1890s.
The photographs are detailed below:
1. Adrienne Lecouvreur
Eugène Scribe (1791-1861)
First performed in London in 1880, at the Gaiety Theatre, after Bernhardt had left the Comédie Française, when she was asked to come to London with her own company. The play was so enormously successful that even the French critics praised her, and begged her to come back to the  Comédie Française. Bernhardt carried Adrienne Lecouvreur all over the world.
Adrienne Lecouvreur, written in 1849 with the collaboration of Gabriel-Jean-Baptiste Legouvé, fictionalized  the circumstances surrounding the death of Adrienne Lecouvreur, a famous actress who in 1730 apparently committed suicide because her lover, Maurice de Saxe, had deserted her for the Princess de Bouillon.
Adrienne Lecouvreur opened November 8th, 1880, the first play Bernhardt presented when she came to New York. New Yorkers, who had heard rumors from Paris of Bernhardt's scandalous behavior, came to see Sarah out of sheer curiosity.
Audiences had to wait until the second act to see Sarah, since Adrienne Lecouvreur broke dramatic convention by leaving the main character out of the first act. Bernhardt captivated New York audiences. She revived Adrienne Lecouvreur in London in 1905, and in Paris in 1907.
2. Dame aux Camélias
Alexandre Dumas (1824-1895)
La Dame aux Camélias was Bernhardt's box-office standby for nearly 45 years. Bernhardt approached the role with a simplicity that deeply touched the audience, moving them to tears. Overall, she played Dumas' frail heroine over 3,000 times. "Camille" as it has come to be called,
 was the play most often acted on Bernhardt's American tour, for a total of 156 performances. During her last 1880 tour performance, there were 17 curtain calls after the second act and 29 at the end.
This rare photograph, done by an unidentified photographer, was from an Australian tour.
3. Théodora
Victorien Sardou (1831-1908)
Victorien Sardou wrote Théodora with Bernhardt in mind. The critics said the plot of this "Byzantine extravaganza" was unlikely, the historical background was hazy, and the romantic fantasy was hollow. Yet, they were willing to admit that all this didn't matter when Bernhardt was performing. Théodora, first performed at the Théâtre Porte Sainte-Martin in Paris in 1884, was the hit of 1884-1885. It ran for 300 performances in Paris and over 100 in London.
The play was historically accurate for the most part, concerning the remarkable rise to power of the Empress Theodora (?-548). Theodora was born into the lowest class of Byzantine society and worked as an actress in burlesque theater. Theodora attracted the love of the future emperor Justinian, who, to the astonishment of proper society, made her not only his wife but also his partner in government. Bernhardt researched her costumes by visiting the mosaic portraits of Théodora and Justinian at the 7th  Church of San Vitale in Ravenna.
4. Pierrot Assassin
Jean Richepin (1849-1926)
Jean Richepin wrote Pierrot Assassin expressly for Bernhardt. It was first performed at the Trocadéro in Paris in 1883, and although it was short lived, it made a lasting impression with its macabre pantomime. "It gave Nadar one of his most moving photographs: Sarah as a white-faced clown doomed to play out the harsh comedy of love and intrigue" (Gold).
5. Cyrano de Bergerac
Edmond Rostand (1868-1918)
Edmond Rostand became famous because of this play, and the actor Constant Coquelin brought it to life.  Cyrano was first performed in 1897, and Bernhardt first performed in Cyrano in New York in 1900.
The rare American photograph is taken by Dupont before 1900.
6. La Tosca
Victorien Sardou (1831-1908)
La Tosca, a tragic story about a painter and his lover who are killed because they help a political prisoner avoid arrest, became a fixture in the Bernhardt repertory. Victorien Sardou had again created a play fitted just for Bernhardt. After the opening at the Théâtre Porte Sainte-Martin in Paris in 1887, the British critic Clement Scott called Bernhardt "the nearest thing to great tragedy that has ever been seen in modern times." Bernhardt performed La Tosca in London in 1888, and revived the play in 1894 and 1899. The play by Sardou was eventually eclipsed by Puccini's opera, but many sopranos copied Bernhardt's performance and passed it on to their pupils. Bernhardt's methods can be seen even in contemporary performances of the opera.
(L'église Saint-André-des-Jésuites à Rome)
Floria: (entrant avec une gerbe de fleurs, une grande canne à la main) Voilà des cérémonies pour m'ouvrir!
Mario: (un pinceau dans les dents) Tu ne me donnes pas le temps de descendre.
Floria: (regardant partout d'un air soupçonneux) tu tires donc le verrou, à présent!
7. Fedora
Victorien Sardou (1831-1908)
Fedora was first performed in 1882 at the Vaudeville in Paris. Victorien Sardou wrote Fedora for Bernhardt, who played the Russian princess who seeks revenge for the murder of her fiancé only to discover that revenge only brings her more agony. Although Bernhardt was trying to bring her husband, Aristidis Damala (1857-1889), into the theatre at the time, Sardou refused to let her give her husband a role in Fedora. Fedora was a turning point in Bernhardt's career and she became the queen of the commercial theatre. The play was full of explosive action, inquisitorial police, sadism, and death. Bernhardt created a potent effect with her scenes of silent pantomime and gestures, that even her harshest critic complimented, saying that "her silences were supreme art" (Gold). Bernhardt revived Fedora in Paris in 1893, and again in 1902.
Fédora: (à la fenêtre) Il a encore neigé, ce soir!...
Désiré: Une bourrasque...
Fédora: La nuit sera froide, le ciel est clair... Cela lui arrive souvent, n'est-ce pas, de se faire attendre ainsi?
Désiré: Autrefois!... Mais à Présent!...
Fédora: (vivement quittant la fenêtre) Alors, c'est inquiétant?
Désiré: Je ne dis pas cela.
Fédora: (de plus en plus inquiète) Moi je le dis! Ce n'est pas naturel, enfin!... Une heure du matin et depuis neuf heures je l'attends et tu ne peux rien dire? Rien supposer?
8. Princesse Lointaine
Edmond Rostand (1868-1918)
Bernhardt and Edmond Rostand had made their first connection when Bernhardt produced and performed in his Princesse Lointaine at the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris in 1894. Despite praise from the critics, the play, a story based on the love of the troubadour Joffroy Rudel, Prince of Blaye, and the Countess of Tripoli, was not well-received by the Paris public. Bernhardt hoped for a better response from the audiences in London, but they reacted in the same way as the Parisians. Bernhardt was defensive of Rostand and immediately commissioned him to write another play. Her bond with the writer and his wife was the positive aspect of their first venture together.
9. Procès de Jeanne d'Arc
Emile Moreau (1852-1922)
Procès de Jeanne d'Arc was a simple, scholarly play that dealt with the trial and martyrdom of Joan of Arc. On opening night at the Théâtre Porte Sainte-Martin in Paris in 1890, audience and critics came to scoff at the idea that Bernhardt, now at the age of 65, could play a girl of 19. Bernhardt appeared in only 2 acts, but she created almost a mystical experience with her performance. In the scene where the Grand Inquisitor asks her age, Bernhardt quietly turned towards the audience and said clearly "Dix-neuf ans." Every time she played this scene, there was a gasp from the audience, a moment of breathless silence, and then thunderous applause. Procès de Jeanne d'Arc had such religious and patriotic appeal that the educational authorities were urged to close all of the schools for one afternoon so that the pupils might attend a matinee. Bernhardt revived the play again in 1909, in Paris.
10. Hernani
Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
Hernani was a staple of the  Comédie Française repertoire, but Bernhardt brought a freshness to it. When Victor Hugo saw Bernhardt perform Doña Sol on opening night in 1877 in Paris, he said it was the first time he had seen his character properly acted. He sent her a diamond the next day as a symbol of his tears. Hernani, a drama about Doña Sol, her outlaw lover Hernani, and those who were intent on keeping them apart, was the hit of the '77-'78 season.
Doña Sol: (douloureusement et joignant les mains)
Hernani! Tu me fuis! Ainsi donc, insensé,
Avoir donné sa vie, et se voir repoussée,
Et n'avoir, après tant d'amour et tant d'ennuis,
Pas même le bonheur de mourir près de lui.
11. Passant
François Coppée (1842-1908)
The manuscript for Passant was given to Madame Agar, a leading actress at the Théâtre de l'Odéon, by the poet François Coppée. When Bernhardt read it, she took it directly to Félix Duquesnel, who ran the Théâtre de l'Odéon with his partner Charles de Chilly. Duquesnel was convinced, but his partner was more wary. He allowed the play to be performed one time only, as a benefit. He refused to build a special set or supply costumes. Le Passant, a one-act romantic verse drama about the beautiful Sylvia, and her realization of love with the cheerful minstrel Zanetto, opened January 14, 1869 and was an immediate success. Public demand was so great that it ran for 150 performances, and became a "must" with the Parisian public.
12 .Macbeth
(Shakespeare, William)
[Auguste] Jean Richepin (1849-1926)
This adaptation of Macbeth by Richepin, first performed in 1883 at the Théâtre Porte Sainte-Martin, did not go over well with Paris audiences. Bernhardt blamed it on the hot weather, and assured Jean Richepin that it would do better in the cooler London climate. It flopped in London as well, even though British audiences were very loyal to Bernhardt. Part of the problem was the conversion of Shakespeare's prose into French, which didn't go over well with French or British audiences.
Lady Macbeth: Proie infirme du remords
Donne-moi ces poignards... les dormants et les morts
À personne jamais, va n'ont fait grand dommage!
C'est bon pour un enfant de trembler à l'image
D'un diable peint!... Allons, et s'il saigne, tant mieux!
J'emporterai de cet or rouge et jusqu'aux yeux.
(Elle monte d'un pas rapide et ferme l'escalier de la tour)
(Adaptation française de Jean Richepin)
13. Cléopâtre
(Shakespeare, William)
Victorien Sardou (1831-1908)
Victorien Sardou adapted the story of Cléopâtre for Bernhardt. This version of Cléopâtre was first performed at the Théâtre Porte Sainte-Martin in Paris in 1890. The play was full of elaborate, exotic costumes, and violent acting. The sultry Cléopâtre was somewhat shocking to Victorian London. "After watching Sarah as Cléopâtre, lasciviously entwined in her lover's arms, an elderly dowager was heard to say: 'How unlike, how very unlike the home life of our own dear queen'" (Gold).
14 .Phedra
Jean Racine (1639-1699)
While she had played a secondary role in Phedra, Bernhardt was cast in the lead in 1874, at the Comédie-Française in Paris. She was worried about measuring up to the great actress Elisa Rachel (1820-1858), who acted in the classical tradition. Bernhardt gave a very different performance, one that brought a feminine passion and lust to the character, and it was a performance that the audience loved. Over the years, Bernhardt as Phedra became sort of a national institution in France. It was always an emotionally exhausting peformance for Bernhardt, so she didn't play it as often as she might. When she did play Phedra, she would sit alone in her dressing room for an hour of silence and concentration.
From Acte II, scène 5:
Phèdre: Je l'aime, point tel que l'ont vu les Enfers...
Mais fidèle, mais fier et même un peu farouche.
Charmant, jeune, traînant tous les cœurs après soi,
Tel qu'on dèpeint les dieux ou tel que je le vois.
15. Ruy Blas
Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
The 1872 revival of Ruy Blas at the Théâtre de l'Odéon was a momentous event in French theater. Victor Hugo had returned to his country triumphant after twenty years of exile, and the audience welcomed him ecstatically. Ruy Blas is a drama about the lackey Ruy Blas, who is ordered by Don Sallust to trick the Queen into loving him. Bernhardt's performance, as well as her costumes, did not disappoint the expectant audience. There are two versions of how Bernhardt came to play the leading role in the revival of Ruy Blas. Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale's version implies that Hugo had chosen Bernhardt to play the Queen of Spain on his own accord. Bernhardt  had misgivings about the assignment at first. She was impressed with his works, but swayed by her friends who convinced her that his politics were detestable. In this version of events, Bernhardt refused to honor Hugo's request to hold the first reading of the play at his home instead of the theatre because her friends convinced her that it was improper. She sent him a charming and diplomatic note of refusal, feigning illness. Hugo sent an equally charming reply. When the two finally met and began working together, their bantering was supposedly simple flirting. The other version of events paints Bernhardt in a less flattering light. According to  Cornelia Otis Skinner, Bernhardt manipulated Hugo into choosing her as the leading actress, by pulling some strings with mutual friends. It was Sarah who was offended by Hugo's request to hold the reading at his home, and the tone of her note of refusal is said to have been indignant, as was Hugo's reply. Once they began working together, Skinner implies that their bantering was more contemptuous than flirtatious, but the end result of both versions is the same. Hugo and Bernhardt became good friends, and some say lovers, for many years to follow.
16. Frou-Frou
Henri Meilhac (1831-1897) / Ludovic Halévy (1834-1908)
Frou-Frou was part of the repertoire that Bernhardt assembled when she headed to London with her own company after her scandalous departure from the Comédie Française in 1880. She first performed Frou-Frou at the Gaiety Theatre in the same year. She did so well with Frou-Frou and other plays in London that the dignitaries of the Comédie Française asked her to come back to their company. She instead took Frou-Frou to Brussels and Denmark, and then on a whirlwind tour of many of the larger provincial towns of France except Paris. Bernhardt added Frou-Frou to her repertoire on her first American tour in 1880 because she thought it was one of the plays that best displayed her talent.
1.Playwright & title: Scribe, Eugène, 1791-1861. Adrienne Lecouvreur not Fedora as back of photo indicates. U. Of Penn website has similar photo.
Date: First performed 1880 London; revived in London, 1905, and Paris, 1907.
Photographer: W.& D. Downey.
Place: London, England.
2. Playwright & title: Dumas, Alexandre, 1824-1895. Dame aux camélias.
Date: (1899 - from U. Of Penn website.) First performed 1880 New York; London, 1881; Paris, 1882, 1883, 1889, 1893, 1896, 1899, 1905, 1908, 1909, 1912, and 1914.
Photographer: The Falk Studios (U. Of Penn has exact same photo, but photographer is Charles Riztmann, New York.)
Place: Sydney, Australia.
3. Playwright & Title: Rostand, Edmond. Cyrano de Bergerac.
Date: First performance, 1900, New York; 1901, London.
Photographer: W.& D. Downey.
Place: London, England.
4. Date: ca. 1901 (Date from U. Of Penn website.)
Photographer: W.& D. Downey.
Place: London, England.
5. Date: Around the time of her performances at Théâtre de l'Odéon, Paris, 1866-1872 (from information on back of photo, dates from Gale online).
Photographer: W. & D. Downey.
Place: London, England.
6. Photographer: W. & D. Downey.
Place: London, England.
7.Playwright & Title: Sardou, Victorien (1831-1908). Théodora.
Date: First performed 1884, Paris; Revived 1902, Paris.
Photographer: W. & D. Downey
Place: London, England.
8. Playwright & Title. Richepin, Jean, 1849-1926. Pierrot Assassin.
Date: First performed 1883, Paris.
Photographer: M. P. Nadar.
Place: Paris.
9. Six photos, all of Théodora.
Playwright & Title: Sardou, Victorien (1831-1908). Théodora.
Date: First performed 1884,  Paris; Revived 1902, Paris.
Photographer: W. & D. Downey.
Place: London, England.
10. Photographer: W. & D. Downey.
Place: London, England.
11. Playwright & Title: Rostand, Edmond. Cyrano de Bergerac.
Date: (ca. 1901- from U. of Penn. Website.) First performance, 1900, New York; 1901, London.
Photographer: Aimé Dupont.
Place: New York.
12. Playwright & Title: Sardou, Victorien (1831-1908). Tosca.
Date: First performed, 1887, Paris; London, 1888; Revived 1894; Again in 1899.
Photographer: Nadar, Felix (1820-1910).
Place: Paris.
13. Playwright & Title: Sardou, Victorien (1831-1908). Fedora.
Date: (1883 - from U. of Penn. Website.) First performed 1882, Paris; Revived 1893, Paris; Again in 1902, Paris.
Photographer: Nadar, Felix (1820-1910).
Place: Paris.
14. Playwright & Title: Scribe, Eugène, 1791-1861. Adrienne Lecouvreur.
Date: Copyright on photo: 1887. (U. of Penn. has same picture, different photographer, dated ca. 1906.) First performed 1880 London; revived in London, 1905, and Paris, 1907.
Photographer: Sarony, Napoleon.
Place: New York.
15. Playwright & Title: Rostand, Edmund, 1868-1918. Princesse Lointaine.
Date: First performed 1894, Paris.
Photographer: Reutlinger, Charles.
Place: Paris.
16. Playwright & Title: Moreau, Emile (1852-1922). Procès de Jeanne d'Arc.
Date: (ca. 1890- from U. of Penn. website). First performed 1890, Paris; 1909, Paris.
Photographer: Nadar, Felix (1820-1910).
Place: Paris.
17. Playwright & Title: Sardou, Victorien (1831-1908). Théodora.
Date: First performed 1884,  Paris; Revived 1902, Paris.
Photographer: Nadar, Felix (1820-1910).
Place: Paris.
18. Two photos, both of Adrienne Lecouvreur.
Playwright & Title: Scribe, Eugène, 1791-1861. Adrienne Lecouvreur.
Date: First performed 1880 London; revived in London, 1905, and Paris, 1907.
Photographer: W. & D. Downey.
Place: London.
19. Playwright & Title: Scribe, Eugène, 1791-1861. Adrienne Lecouvreur.
Date: First performed 1880 London; revived in London, 1905, and Paris, 1907.
Photographer: Daireaux, Victor.
Place: Paris.
20. Six photos, all of Macbeth.
Playwright & Title: Shakespeare, William. Macbeth.
Date: First performed 1883, Paris.
Photographer: Nadar, Felix (1820-1910).
Place: Paris.
21. Four photos, all of Hernani.
Playwright & Title: Hugo, Victor (1802-1885). Hernani.
Date: (1876 - from U. of Penn. Website.) First performed 1877, Paris.
Photographer: Nadar, Felix (1820-1910).
Place: Paris.
22. Photographer: W. & D. Downey.
Place: London.
23. Two photos, both of Passant.
Playwright & Title: Coppée, François (1842-1908). Passant.
Date: First performed 1869, Paris.
Photographer: W. & D. Downey.
Place: London.
24. Playwright & Title: Shakespeare, William. Antony and Cleopatra.
Date: Copyright on photo: 1891. (U. of Penn. has similar photo, different photographer, dated 1906.) First performed 1890, Paris.
Photographer: Sarony, Napoleon.
Place: New York
25. Two photos, both of Phedra.
Playwright & Title: Racine, Jean (1639-1699). Phedra.
Date: (1893 - from U. of Penn. Website.) First performed 1874, Paris; 1893 Paris; 1899, Paris; 1902, Paris.
Photographer, Nadar, Felix (1820-1910).
Place: Paris.
26. Playwright & Title: Hugo, Victor. Ruy Blas.
Date: First performed 1872, Paris; 1879-1880 season, Paris;
Photographer: Melandri.
Place: Paris.
27. Playwright & Title: Henri Meilhac (1831-1897) / Ludovic Halévy (1834-1908). Frou-Frou.
Date: First performed 1880 London.
Photographer: W. & D. Downey.
Place: London.
The Photographers:
Etienne Carjat (1828-1906), Paris, France.
His studio was at 10 rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette from 1869-1884. Carjat, a great photographer following the example of Nadar, was also a draftsman, poet and magazine publisher. In his photography he experimented with personalities, especially the dark and enigmatic sides. His portrait of Baudelaire is his most famous work, but also important is his aged view of Giacomo Rossini and his portrait of a young and timid Emile Zola. Carjat often used the Woodbury type of photograph which was developed in 1864.
W & D Downey, 57 and 61 Ebury street, London; 9 Eldon Square, Newcastle.
W & D Downey was a notable Victorian firm which was licensed to photograph the English royal family and did portraits of Queen Victoria, Princess Eugenia, and Princess Alexandra. Downey also photographed scientists, military commanders, members of society, musicians and theatrical artists, as well as Charles Darwin, Alfred Russell Wallace, Thomas Henry Huxley and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Downey photographed very few theatrical personalities but did a series of at least eight photos of Sarah Bernhardt in Theodora for the English performances. In addition, there is one studio portrait. In France, the Downey photos were distributed through Cottereau.
Paul Nadar (1856 - 1939), son of Felix Nadar (1820-1920).
Paul apprenticed in his father's studio from the early 1860s and printed some of his father's earliest photographs, including the famous 1865 photos of Sarah Bernhardt. Paul took over the Nadar name and operations at 51, Rue d'Anjou in the 1880s.
Paul, while not the artistic innovator that his father was, was a skilled and versatile photographer, and one who had a particular interest in and love for the theatre and for the "high life" in general. Paul moved toward portraits of the aristocracy and the bourgeoisies, as well as actors, singers of opera, and erotic postcards.
According Pierre Spivakoff, Paul Nadar's photography that was related to the stage constitutes an irreplaceable documentary showing the psychology of dramatic art at the end of the 19th century. Paul captured in his studio the difficult and elusive spirit of the theatre, a major accomplishment when cameras of the time required the sitter to remain still for 15 seconds to a full minute. In particular, his photography of Sarah Bernhardt forms an important record, since he photographed the actress in most of her major roles.
Charles Reutlinger was born in Karlsruhe in 1816 and died after 1880.
Charles founded his studio in Paris at 33 bd. Saint-Martin, then in 1853 moved to 21 bd. Montmartre, and later 12 rue de Richelieu.  Reutlinger came from a family of photographers including his brother Leopole, his daughter Juana, and his nephew Jean.
Charles Reutlinger is known for photographing the individual officers of the war of 1870-71 and also members of the Commune. He did the studio portrait of Sarah Bernhardt facing half left (p. 18, top right) between 1868-1870, and the portrait facing full left with a pearl ornament in her hair (p. 18, top left) in 1875 or the years that immediately followed.
Napoleon Sarony (1821 Quebec - 1896 New York).
Sarony established a photography studio in New York in 1866, although he withdrew for six years in order to visit studios in Europe. Although versatile with many subjects, Sarony is best known for his theatrical photos. He photographed virtually every star of the New York stage. Upon his death, it is estimated that he had more than 40,000 negatives of show business. The Sarony photos show Sarah Bernhardt in Hernani and Cleopatra.
Joseph Tourtin (portrait painter born in Saint-Laurent-des-Arbes) was a student with Ingres et Flandrin.

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