Dec 3, 2007

Sarah Bernhardt in "Zaire" by Voltaire

Sarah Bernhardt in "Zaire" by Voltaire


Étienne Carjat

(French, 1828–1906)

Albumen print from wet collodion negative

Image: 27.3 x 21.3 cm (10 3/4 x 8 3/8 in.); Matted: 50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 1996.245



Carjat’s portrait studio, like those of Nadar and Mathew Brady, made its reputation on celebrity portraiture. An important segment of that market was the theatrical portrait. Thanks to photographs and engravings made from them and published in newspapers, performers like French actress Sarah Bernhardt gained international fame. “The Divine Sarah” is seen here at age 30 costumed for a play about star-crossed lovers set during the Crusades. Like Nadar, Carjat preferred plain backdrops to let the sitters’ poses, expressions, and costumes tell their story. The long exposure times, however, limited the theatricality of their poses.

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