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Sarah Bernhardt "Chimera" Self-Portrait Bronze Sculpture


This French Art Nouveau patinated bronze sculpture by Sarah Bernhardt is known to be a self-portrait of the artist herself, personified as a chimera. Among the various gifts of Sarah Bernhardt was her skill at sculpting, which she turned to self-portraiture in this intriguing rebus that reveals the great actress's personality. She presents her sensitive, intelligent face atop the body of a winged lion, exposing that beneath her theatrical disguises was a creature of strength and courage. On the lion's shoulders are affixed theater masks, not as one might expect of tragedy and comedy, but both male, both apparently expressing awe and astonishment.

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  • Curator's Notes

Item #: B-18349
Artist: Sarah Bernhardt
Circa: 1880
Dimensions: 15" height, 13.5" width, 13" depth
Materials: Patinated bronze
Signed: ''Sarah Bernhardt 1880'' 
Literature: Example of this sculpture pictured in Dynamic Beauty: Sculpture of Art Nouveau Paris, by Macklowe Gallery, The Studley Press, 2011, p. 55
Exhibition History: This sculpture has been accessioned into the permanent collections of The Museum of Fine Art Boston, The Virginia Museum of Fine Art, and the Princeton Museum; Another similar sculpture was given by the artist to King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, which remains in the Royal Collection Trust

Declaring that, "all the best parts belong to men," Sarah Bernhardt financed classic productions where she cast herself as hero, with Hamlet and Werther among her most acclaimed roles. An imaginative and dazzling performer, and a pioneer of female social freedom, Bernhardt's self-portrait provides insight into the soul of an artist at the forefront of women's social transformation.