Style Other / Ref.11978
Théodore DECK (ceramist) and Edmond LACHENAL (painter) – enameled ceramic plate with Sarah Bernhardt disguised as Doña Sol made in 1878
Width: 24'' 61cm
Height: 2'' ¾ 7cm
Depth: 24'' 61cm
This important enameled ceramic plate depicts a side portrait of the actress Sarah Bernhardt in her role of Doña Sol in Hernani, written by Victor Hugo. It was made by Théodore Deck (1823 - 1991) and painted by Edmond Lachenal (1853-1948) in 1878. All around the portrait we can see the inscriptions in medieval letters « Sarah Bernhardt », « Hernani 1878 » and the painter's signature. Till today this plate is the only one known.
On our plate, Sarah Bernhardt is depicted on a yellow background decorated with fleur-de-lys, she's dressed as a 15th century Spanish noble with a white and blue dress with a ruff and a stone necklace. Her hair are dressed and she's wearing a crown and a head jewel matching her necklace. This representation of the actress is due, as it's written on the plate, to her role Doña Sol in one of the most famous play of Victor Hugo, untitled Hernani. This romantic drama, played for the first time on October 25th 1870 at the Comédie Française, was shown again to the public by the director Emile Perrin in 1877 and 1878 with Hernani's role played by Mounet Sully and Sarah Bernhardt playing Doña Sol.
This representation was her recognition, congratulated by the critics and nicknamed the “golden voice” or even “the Divine”, Victor Hugo would have said to her : “ You crowned yourself queen, queen twice, queen thanks to your beauty and queen thanks to your talent”.
This plate reminds of the big decorative ceramic plates depicting portraits on a golden background made by Théodore Deck, important ceramist of the 19th century and Edmond Lachenal's teacher. Settled in 1858 in Paris with his brother Xavier Deck, it's thanks to his researches on the substance and the baking that Théodore Deck participates in the renew of the ceramics' technics. From the 1870's, the ceramist wishes to associate the fine art with objects produced in an industrial way, so he collaborates with painters, sculptors and even decorators. We can see those collaborations especially on his plates depicting portraits on a background colored with gold leaf.
Among these regulars collaborating painters, we can named Raphaël Collin, Albert Anker but also Edmond Lachenal.
Although, our plate reminds of Théodore Deck's production by the choice of colors, it slightly distinguishes itself by the way it was made.
Indeed, the painted yellow background with fleur-de-lys takes the idea of the golden backgrounds with small reliefs without reproducing it completely. Nevertheless, the portrait realization takes Deck's production way, as it is painted on a background and then covered with a glazing. Edmond Lachenal, who was Théodore Deck's student for almost ten years before settling his own workshop in Paris in 1880, slowly stands out from his master production to lean toward Japanese decor and Art Nouveau. Our plate announced Edmond Lachenal's production which takes back several times the idea of the round plate depicting a portrait on a yellow background, while putting his personal touch, as it's the case for the plate with a child portrait untitled “Fernand” and made in 1891, with the add of an edge decorated with flowers and butterfly in a Japanese taste. Edmond Lachenal was very friend with Sarah Bernhardt, for whom he made a table set when she asks him to, during the 1890's. He also made another portrait of the actress on a plate which is now in the Petit Palais museum in Paris. In it we find again the golden background but it doesn't predominate anymore.
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