The Divine Sarah


Sarah Bernhardt by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1895).

You can’t be a fin de siècle fetishist and not develop a fascination with actress Sarah Bernhardt, a woman who was muse to many of the era’s finest artists, most notably Alphonse Mucha, who she employed as her official designer. Mucha’s marvellous posters are endlessly popular, of course; less well-known is the sculpture by academic painter and Orientalist Jean-Léon Gérôme, a rare three-dimensional work inspired by the actress.


Inkwell by Sarah Bernhardt (1880).

Even less well-known is Ms Bernhardt’s own design for a curious bat-winged inkwell. I’ve read of her having created other sculptural works but so far this is the only one I’ve seen a picture of. With something as decadent as this you’d really have to use peacock quills for pens, wouldn’t you?



Bracelet by Alphonse Mucha & Georges Fouquet (1899).

And in a similar sinister vein to the inkwell there’s this serpentine bracelet and ring, a superb one-off, designed by Mucha and crafted by the jeweller Fouquet. After seeing works such as this and the Lalique dragonfly (which Ms Bernhardt once wore), most other jewellery seems timid and unadventurous in comparison.

Update: Added another photo of the inkwell.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The art of Philippe Wolfers, 1858–1929
Lalique’s dragonflies
Lucien Gaillard
The Masks of Medusa

7 thoughts on “The Divine Sarah”


    hi john,

    sorry for posting this in the comments rather than emailing, im just lazy,

    i know you will be interested,


    Oklahoma state legislator, antigay tirade, speech recorded, posted on net, legislator defends by quoting free speech amendment’s, needs to be told how wrong she is.

  2. Thom: Anyone who wore jewellery like that deserves nothing less.

    thewalker: I see stories like that nearly every day but made a decision some time ago to post about them less often unless I felt it was especially pertinent to the usual concerns here. That’s not to diminish their import, just that there’s enough sites already dealing with gay politics and politics in general so I’d prefer to focus on things that are less likely to receive attention. I read Towleroad every day (and send them tips now and then) and they do a good job of covering these stories.

    As it happens, Queerty reports that the wretched woman at the centre of that story has a gay son that she’s disowned. Seems like there’s some issues there we aren’t being told about.

  3. sweet as John, I wasn’t actually expecting you to want to post it, apart from possibly on the sidebar. I just thought i would point you at it.
    as disgusting and selfish as she is, her type are slowly dying off.

    I believe it shows a maturing of the online activism model. and quite an even handed one at that.

    thanks for the reply.

  4. Thanks Callum, I’d forgotten about that even though I’d made a comment on the post! (And I’m reminded again that when someone deigns to pay me some decent money I really have to order some of your books.)

    thewalker: One of the bigots du jour was moaning about their dying breed only a couple of days ago. The hate axis in Christian countries is very heavily weighted towards the older generation. Once they’re gone it’s going to be a very different world; it already is compared to the way things were when I was a teenager.

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