Nicknamed "The Divine Sarah" by the legendary playwright, Oscar Wilde,
Sarah Bernhardt was the undisputed queen of French romantic and classical
tragedy." Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923). One of the theater's greatest
talents, French actress Sarah Bernhardt was also one of its most colorful
personalities. Few performers ever moved audiences as Bernhardt did,
or succeeded in such a wide variety of roles. None provoked more controversy.
This exceedingly slender woman with a strikingly attractive face traveled
with, and sometimes slept in, a coffin lined with letters from her
innumerable lovers. And her entourage often included a veritable menagerie
of dogs, cats, birds, turtles, monkeys, leopards, lions, and alligators.
Men fought duels to the death for her, priests exhorted parishioners
to shun her, and at least one woman killed herself because she couldn't
get a ticket to a Bernhardt performance. Critic Jules Lemaitre once
said of Bernhardt, "She could enter a convent, discover the North
Pole, have herself inoculated with rabies, assassinate an emperor
or marry a Negro king without astonishing me." (www.trivia-library.com)
An original design by Berthon, of who's work Laura Gold writes "Of
all the posterists who designed decorative panels, Berthon was perhaps
the best qualified to do a series on flowers personified as women
since his women are so flower-like, delicate creatures, so light as
to be nearly ethereal, seen in the softest focus and tinged with the
the woman a shy, soulful spirit passing by in our
dreams" (Gold p.137)
Although not directly from his flower series, the format is very much
similar, and the effect here equally enchanting.
Subscribers to the Maitre
de l'Affiche series received four special plates annually. These premium original
lithographs, each an original design, were created specifically for this series,
and are not seen in any other format, unlike the regular plates, which are reduced
versions of larger posters.
We are most fortunate to have had the inclusion
of the Special Plates (Sp), as each one is a true example of the artist's creativity
and skill. The artist is unencumbered with a product or service to advertise,
and can express himself more freely, demonstrating his drawing ability, the essence
of graphic art, with only one or two colours. For many collectors these unique
Special Plates are more desirable than any of the regular plates.