[Sarah Bernhardt as Phedre in Racine's "Phaedra"]

Object Details

Title:

[Sarah Bernhardt as Phedre in Racine's "Phaedra"]

Artist/Maker(s):

Nadar [Gaspard Félix Tournachon] (French, 1820 - 1910)

Culture:

French

Date:

negative about 1874; print and mount 1880s

Medium:

Albumen silver

Dimensions:

14.6 x 11.4 cm (5 3/4 x 4 1/2 in.)

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Introduced in the 1860s, cabinet cards were studio-produced photographs mounted on cardstock. Inexpensive multiples offered for public sale, they often featured portraits of celebrities of the day--writers, musicians, actors--and were widely collected. Nadar's photograph of Sarah Bernhardt (French, 1844-1923) as Phèdre is from a collector's album of cabinet card portraits of Bernhardt by various photographers.

A famous actress in the late 1800s, the "Divine Sarah" was a brilliant self-promoter at a time when the basis of celebrity was shifting from the political figure to the theatrical performer. Bernhardt pioneered the use of new technologies to disseminate her image: she was one of the most photographed women in the world, and the first major stage actress to star in films. She made several recordings of famous theatrical dialogues including a reading from Racine's Phèdre at Thomas Edison's home.

A recognizable figure, Bernhardt--often depicted in theatrical costume--endorsed commercial products. Contemporary with this cabinet card, her image appeared on cigarette cards, an early form of product promotion. Advertisements as well as collectable ephemera, cigarette cards like cabinet cards, reinforced Bernhardt's image in popular culture.

Exhibitions
Persistent Themes: Notable Photography Acquisitions, 1985 - 1990 (June 5 to September 2, 1990)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), June 5 to September 2, 1990
Fame and Photography (March 9 to May 23, 1993)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), March 9 to May 23, 1993
Enduring Myth: The Tragedy of Hippolytos and Phaidra (August 24 to December 4, 2006)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa, (Malibu), August 24 to December 4, 2006