Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sarah Bernhardt - Original Goth?

Staring vacuously at the computer screen and wondering what the devil to write about this week, the insomniac's  eye came to rest on a picture that hangs in the Computer slash Television slash Family Room in the Gothic Mansion. Sadly, there is actually a demand for such a room in the Mansion, even though the insomniac  would prefer a Library slash Conservatory slash Turkish Den instead.

Returning to the point the insomniac  was originally attempting to make ... the picture in question is of the famous French actress Sarah Bernhardt, her faithful Borzoi sprawled at her feet which, while we're on the subject of Borzoi, is the insomniac's  favourite breed. And now that the offspring have pretty much vacated the Gothic Mansion for the most part and it is feeling rather desolate, perhaps the acquisition of another Baby Borzoi should be considered so that once again we could be routinely entertained by the pitter-patter of giant feet galloping down the deserted hallways.

Sarah Bernhardt by Georges Clairin, 1876

Returning once more to the topic of this week's post: Sarah Bernhardt - Original Goth? How else could you describe a woman who, instead of wearing a bird on her hat as was the current fashion, flaunted a bat. Incidentally, the insomniac  is seriously contemplating the recreation of this magnificent hat as her next craft project. It would seem a midnight eBay excursion to locate a taxidermy bat will be required in the not-to-distant future.

Sarah sporting her Bat Chapeau ...

And who, besides a true Goth, would sleep in a coffin? Truly, only a woman with a grand sense of the theatrical - but also of the practical, since these photographs were widely sold and brought her tremendous notoriety.

Sarah dans son Cercueil
(that's French for coffin) ...

The insomniac  adores this next photograph of Sarah. Back in the day, she attempted to emulate this look herself, with pale foundation to create that deathly pallor and kohl to mimic those sunken eyes, blissfully unaware that thirty years later a deathly pallor and sunken eyes would be achievable without any makeup at all. Mmmphh.

Sarah with Lily Langtry

What a contrast of styles, and oh, that fur coat ...

Sarah led an eccentric life, often wearing magnificent clothing she designed herself. As Alfons Mucha wrote: “Sarah's outfits were marked by their originality. She didn't worry about fashion, she dressed in accordance with her own tastes.” Please feel free to correct the insomniac  if she's mistaken, but doesn't dressing in opulent brocades, furs and embroidered belts with dangling bits sound like the very definition of Goth? Provided it's all done in varying shades of black, of course.

Definitely not what you'd call a casual dresser ...

This postcard is another favorite in the insomniac's  rather large collection of obscure postcards that reside in the real third-floor attic, in The Box Stuffed with Postcards which sits on top of The Box Stuffed with Prints which sits on top of - well, you get the idea ...

This table makes the insomniac  lightheaded with envy ...

... as does this chair.

Now this is the insomniac's  idea of a proper Family Room, although there doesn't seem to be a spot for the computer or the television. And perhaps the barcalounger also needs to find a new home?

Sarah, with her back to the camera and Clairin's painting behind the chandelier ...

The Painter
The Sculptor

As well as a gifted actress, Bernhardt was also a brilliant sculptor (Gustave Doré was her tutor) and exhibited regularly in the Paris Salon for almost twenty-five years. She kept a studio in Paris and at her holiday home at Belle-Ile-en-Mer. Perhaps it isn't too late for the insomniac  to revisit the idea of Art School, and instead of a Family Room conversion maybe an Artist's Studio is in order.

But if one has an Artist's Studio, then one would be under pressure to create great works of art. On second thought, redecorating the Family Room is clearly the better idea.

Ophelia Drowning
Bronze Inkwell
Self-Portrait, 1880

After the Tempest

Marble Funerary Portrait of Jacques Damala, 1889

Sarah made her début at the Théâtre-Français in 1862 and gave her last performance in 1923, filming La Voyante just before she died - over 60 years of acting on stage and in silent films. A few melodramatic poses from her theatrical roles ...



La Tosca

Following is a short clip of Sarah in the silent film La Reine Élisabeth from 1912 - the flinging of the arms and the wringing of the hands - so Gothic, so Dramatic, so Divine!

Until next time,the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams ... and if not, perhaps one could otherwise occupy themselves watching one of Sarah's theatrical performances or listening to a recording of her mesmerizing voice on YouTube. Merely a suggestion, of course. Goodnight, my pretties...


   Sarah The Life of Sarah Bernhard, Robert Gottlieb

   Sarah and Her World, Joanna Richard
   The Divine Sarah, Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale

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