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Maurice Bouval "Ophelia" Bronze Sculpture

Maurice Bouval's Ophelia, created circa 1900, pays homage to Sarah Bernhardt's portrayal of the character in a 1886 production of Hamlet. In a pivotal moment of the play, Ophelia, amidst picking flowers, tragically slips into a stream. Consumed by sorrow following her father's murder at the hands of her lover, Hamlet, she succumbs to the depths of the water. Bouval's depiction of Ophelia is adorned with yellow pond lilies and opium poppies, a poignant nod to the scene where she clutches poppies as she meets her watery fate. The choice of poppies carries significant symbolism; tracing back to ancient Greek mythology, where they were associated with death. Legend has it that after the abduction of Demeter's daughter, the goddess of harvest was given a poppy by the gods to induce sleep. From her footsteps, poppies bloomed.

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  • Curator's Notes

Item #: B-20840
Artist: Maurice Bouval
Country: France
Circa: 1900
Dimensions: 17.5" height, 11.5" width,7" depth
Materials: Bronze
Signed: signed in bronze M.BOUVAL, stamped E. COLIN & C.PARIS
Literature:Art Nouveau: The French Aesthetic” by Victor Arwas, page 234. Also a similar one is pictured in Art Nouveau Sculpture, by Alastair Duncan, Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1978, p. 28. And in: "Dynamic Beauty: Sculpture of Art Nouveau Paris", by Macklowe Gallery, The Studley Press, 2011, p. 218.

Bernhardt's relation to the character Ophelia ran deep. She had made a bust of Ophelia in her career as a sculptor, years before she finally played the character on the stage. She had gained much fame in her early years for sleeping in a coffin surrounded by flowers. Like many other Europeans, Bernhardt was also affected by the extraordinary popular craze related to the so-called "L'Inconnue de la Seine" (the Unknown Woman of the Seine), a beautiful young unidentified woman drowned in the Seine, whose deathmask was produced in innumerable copies that became popular souvenirs as well as serving as an inspiration for artists and writers in various countries for decades to come