On Dec. 2, the Jewish Museum on New York's Upper East Side opened Sarah Bernhardt: The Art of High Drama. It will run through April 2, 2006. Curators Carol Ockman and Kenneth E. Silver have collected some 300 rarely seen objects from Bernhardt's life, as well as paintings and sculptures (both by and of her). This is the first major U.S. museum exhibition devoted to the French actress.
Sarah, one of the greatest actresses of her time, was once the most photographed woman in the world. She sat for many of the artists of her day. Thomas Edison recorded her "golden voice."
Her motto was "quand meme" or "against all odds." It was embossed on everything she owned.
Exhibition highlights include: a selection of rare photographs of Sarah Bernhardt by the pioneering French photographer Félix Nadar taken when the actress was no more than twenty and had no reputation; other vintage photographs of the actress in such famous roles as Hamlet, Camille, Cleopatra, and Joan of Arc; sumptuous posters by the Art Nouveau designers, Alphonse Mucha and Jules Chéret; a splendid crown studded with pearls designed by Alphonse Mucha and executed by René Lalique; an infamous publicity photograph of Bernhardt posing in her coffin (c. 1880); a letter Sarah Bernhardt wrote to Emile Zola in support of his defense of Alfred Dreyfus; a lithograph by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec of Sarah Bernhardt as the tragic heroine in Phèdre; paintings of the actress by prominent contemporaries; costumes including a gold-embroidered cape and a jewel-encrusted crown for Théodora as well as jeweled bracelets for Cleopatra; items from Bernhardt's personal wardrobe including an elegant ermine capelet, multi-colored embroidered kid gloves and a feathered fan; examples of sculpture by Sarah Bernhardt; a rare audio recording (c. 1900) of the actress performing an Edmond Rostand play, L'Aiglon (The Eaglet), about the son of Napoleon Bonaparte; film excerpts of the actress at home and performing such roles as Camille and Queen Elizabeth, highlighted by her first film - of the duel scene from Hamlet - made in 1900.
The museum has an Online Gallery of some of the items here.