The exhibition "Sarah Bernhardt. And the woman created the star" will be held at the Petit Palais from 14th April to 27th August 2023, paying tribute to this extraordinary woman who was free-spirited, engaged, and passionate, and became a legend even during her lifetime. The Steinitz Gallery, which owns important pieces from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries signed by great figures of decorative arts, is pleased to contribute to this exhibition by loaning two objects: The Grand Mirror, designed by Édouard Lièvre, adorned in its center with the initials SB and the motto "Quand même" (nevertheless), belonging to Sarah Bernhardt. As well as a pair of Japanese-style wall consoles created by Frédéric-Eugène Piat.
THE GRAND MIRROR BY EDOUARD LIÈVRE
The Grand Mirror by Édouard Lièvre is a major piece selected by the Steinitz Gallery to be featured in the exhibition and is one not to be missed. This rare and elegant mirror, freely inspired by the decorative vocabulary of the Renaissance, is designed as a fully-fledged architectural element. The glass, placed at the center like an opening, set back inward, contributes to reinforcing the effect of perspective created by the various architectural elements that make up the frame: a hemispherical cut base, a semicircular arch, composite columns, pilasters, a pediment placed on an entablature with fine arches. The techniques and patterns used for the decoration of the decor are representative of Édouard Lièvre's style. The gilded and silvered bronzes, delicately chiseled and pierced, are reminiscent of those on Valtesse de la Bigne's bed, preserved at the Museum of Decorative Arts. The polychrome faience plates with candelieri, trophei, groteschi decor on an ocher and cobalt blue background were executed by Genlis and Rudhard, art faience makers in Paris (active between 1864 and 1890). The initials "SB" and the motto "Quand même", placed in a gilded bronze escutcheon at the top of the semi-circular arch of the mirror, leave no doubt as to the identity of the person who commissioned this mirror: Sarah Bernhardt. This mirror, which was presented at the major retrospective exhibition organized in New York in 2005, probably belonged to the collections of the hotel that Sarah Bernhardt had built for herself by the architect Jules Février from 1876 onwards. This was a Neo-Renaissance style building made of bricks and stones, located at the corner of Avenue de Villiers and Rue Fortuny. The luxurious interior of this hotel, decorated by her friends, the painters Georges Clairin and Louise Abbéma, was described by a visitor of the time: "The entrance to the house is on Rue Fortuny. A gate gives access to a small courtyard, but sufficient to accommodate some masses of green shrubs, a basin where a carved mascaron constantly throws a net of water, and a stone staircase with a wide balustrade, by which one goes up to the main building, to the right of the gate. At the top of the stairs, a solid oak door opens, and one enters the vestibule lit by a small window. To the right, a large mirror [our mirror?], whose base disappears into a flowerpot, adds to the decorative effect produced by the staircase facing it. [...]".
PAIR OF JAPONESQUE WALL CONSOLES BY PIAT
The other iconic object loaned by the Steinitz Gallery for the exhibition "Sarah Bernhardt: And the Woman Created the Star," which visitors must stop to admire, is illustrated by a pair of Japonisme wall consoles signed by Frédéric-Eugène Piat (1827-1903). An identical pair adorned Sarah Bernhardt's studio in her Parisian mansion at 56 Boulevard Péreire, her last residence in Paris, where they were photographed around 1900 to illustrate a book titled The Home of Sarah Bernhardt in Paris published in Paris and London by Taber Bas-relief. This iconic object in chiselled bronze with brown and gilded patina, dating from the first half of the 19th century, comes from a private collection. (H. 26.5 cm; L. 23 cm; D. 25 cm). Described in the Catalogue of Decorative Arts of the Museum of Troyes in 1897, this model of Japonisme wall consoles was created for the Maison Gagneau in Paris. Frédéric-Eugène Piat was one of the leading French sculptors and ornamentalists of the 19th century, alongside Louis-Constant Sévin, responsible for the renewal and development of the French art bronze industry. An active member of the Union of Bronze Manufacturers, he was one of those who fused art and industry and became one of the founders of the Union Centrale des Beaux-Arts Appliqués à l'Industrie in 1864. After training with various sculptors and ornamentalists, he started his own business in 1845 and enjoyed an excellent reputation from the 1850s onwards. In the following decade, he began collaborating with the founder Louis Léon Marchand (1831-1899), and in the 1870s, he worked with prominent manufacturers such as Georges Édouard Gagneau, Charles de Marnyhac, Émile Colin, and the Fonderie du Val d'Osne. It was from 1873 that he was truly celebrated artistically: while designing models for the 1873 Vienna World's Fair, he received a visit from President Adolphe Thiers, who made him a knight of the Legion of Honour in recognition of his fruitful contribution to the French art bronze industry. Piat participated in Parisian Salons as well as nine World's Fairs during the second half of the century. He was notably recognized during the 1878 fair in Paris, where he exhibited a vast collection of objects for which he received a gold medal, but especially during the 1889 fair where he was awarded the Grand Prize, the highest accolade ever granted to an industrial artist. Thanks to the quality and style of his productions, in accordance with the taste of the time for historicism and eclecticism, as brilliantly demonstrated by the pair of Japanese-inspired wall consoles presented here and loaned to the Petit Palais, Piat achieved international renown.
HENRIETTE ROSINE BERNHARDT, KNOWN AS SARAH BERNHARDT
Henriette Rosine Bernhardt, known as Sarah Bernhardt, was a renowned French actress born on October 22, 1844 in Paris. She was hailed as the "queen of attitude and princess of gesture" by Edmond Rostand and had a "golden voice" according to Victor Hugo. She left her mark on the world of theatre through her interpretations, tumultuous tours, magnificence, extravagance, and directorial prowess. She is considered one of the most famous French tragediennes of the 19th century and was the first to tour triumphantly on all five continents. Jean Cocteau even coined the term "monstre sacré" to describe her. At the age of 16, Bernhardt won an award at the Academy of Fine Arts and found her calling in theatre. She enrolled in the Paris Conservatory of Dramatic Art in 1859 and graduated in 1862 with a second prize in comedy. She joined the Comédie-Française but was dismissed in 1866 for slapping a fellow actor. She then signed a contract with the Odéon, where she made her breakthrough performance in François Coppée's Le Passant in 1869. In 1872, she triumphed in the role of the queen in Victor Hugo's Ruy Blas, which led to her being rehired by the Comédie-Française, where she distinguished herself in Phèdre in 1874 and Hernani in 1877. In 1880, she resigned and formed her own company, which made her a fortune abroad until 1917. She specialized in playing male roles, such as Hamlet and Pelléas, inspiring Edmond Rostand's play L'Aiglon in 1900. Her lyrical style and emphatic diction thrilled audiences of all kinds. To promote her shows, she met with Thomas Edison in New York and recorded a cylinder of her reading of Phèdre. Bernhardt was close to Oscar Wilde and commissioned him to write the play Salomé, in which she played the lead role in 1892. The following year, she became the director of the Théâtre de la Renaissance and later renamed it the "Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt," where she performed in La Dame aux camélias. In December 1894, Sarah Bernhardt called upon Alfons Mucha to design her posters. These six years of collaboration breathed new life into her career. In 1914, Sarah Bernhardt was awarded the Legion of Honor. Amputated at the age of 71, she continued to act while seated. Towards the end of her life, Sarah Bernhardt, after having played in more than a hundred and twenty shows, became a film actress. She notably appeared in "Le Duel d'Hamlet," made in 1900, one of the first attempts at talking cinema with the Phono-Cinema-Theatre process. She made other silent films, including two autobiographical ones, the last being "Sarah Bernhardt à Belle-Ile" in 1912, a transcription of her daily life. Her style and silhouette inspired fashion, decorative arts, and the aesthetics of Art Nouveau. Sarah Bernhardt's private life was particularly eventful. At the age of 20, she gave birth to her only child, Maurice Bernhardt, who became a writer, the result of a likely affair with Prince Charles-Joseph-Eugène-Henri de Ligne. After a few more lovers, Sarah Bernhardt married Aristide Damala, a Greek actor who died at the age of 34. In 1922, Sarah, who had become infirm and ill, sold her properties. She passed away on March 26, 1923, and was buried in Père-Lachaise cemetery, despite her wish to rest facing the ocean at Belle-Ile-en-Mer, like Chateaubriand. Her motto "Quand même" - displayed on the mirror lent by the Steinitz gallery to the Petit Palais - refers to her audacity and rejection of conventions: "One must hate very little, for it is very tiring. One must despise a lot, forgive often, but never forget," she affirmed.
Founded in 1968 by Bernard Steinitz, the Steinitz Gallery has achieved worldwide fame and has become one of the most prestigious galleries in the world. The presentation and discovery of rare and high-quality objects has enabled the gallery to establish a privileged relationship with museums and cultural institutions: the Louvre Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the J.-P. Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Jerusalem Museum. Benjamin Steinitz, who joined the family business in 1991, now presides over the fortunes of the Steinitz Gallery and is particularly known for presenting exhibitions, all of which are recognised for their excellence. Thanks to a sometimes daring but always top-notch décor of parquet, wood panelling and fabrics, the gallery establishes a dialogue between 17th, 18th and 19th century art objects, rare and high-quality furniture, the true signature of the 'Steinitz taste'. The Steinitz Gallery has a long family tradition and combines know-how and experience to address an extremely demanding clientele. The gallery's collection includes not only French and European works, but also rare pieces from Asia, India, Russia and South America.
Et la femme créa la star
Le Petit Palais, Paris
14 April - 27 August 2023
6, rue Royale
+33 (1)56 43 66 70