Miss Bernhardt, the Ocean Empress
1 photographic print.
Miss Bernhardt, full-length portrait, seated, facing slighlty right, with person in deep sea diving gear standing alongside.
Higher resolution image is available (Persistent URL): hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c03558
BIOG FILE - Bernhardt, Miss
Owner: The Library of Congress
Source: Flickr Commons
Sarah Bernhardt (French: saʁa bɛʁnɑʁt;note 1 born Henriette-Rosine Bernard; 22 or 23 October 1844 – 26 March 1923) was a French stage actress who starred in some of the most popular French plays of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including La Dame Aux Camelias by Alexandre Dumas fils; Ruy Blas by Victor Hugo, Fédora and La Tosca by Victorien Sardou, and L'Aiglon by Edmond Rostand. She also played male roles, including Shakespeare's Hamlet. Rostand called her "the queen of the pose and the princess of the gesture", while Hugo praised her "golden voice". She made several theatrical tours around the world, and was one of the first prominent actresses to make sound recordings and to act in motion pictures.
In 1880, at the start of her first tour to the United States, an article in the [New Haven] Morning Journal and Courier. October 30, 1880, page 1, right-hand column chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82015483/1880-10-30/ed-... focused on her costumes for the roles she was to play and that "the great Felix, prince of Paris dressmakers, was subjected to the most trying variations of her taste. The making of the dresses is described in the Figaro as a perfect work of art, for Bernhardt required the most delicate variations of light and shade." But there is no mention of an "Ocean Empress" as role or name of a play.
Another photo of Bernhardt in the LoC collections is www.loc.gov/pictures/item/98503044/resource/ in which Bernhardt is in the diver suit. Both pictures appear to have been acquired through copyright deposit in the U.S. Perhaps they were promotional photographs for a project she was trying to get support for. Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues under the Seas" originated in serialized form in 1869-70, with an octavo illustrated edition published in 1871. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twenty_Thousand_Leagues_Under_the_Seas The popularity of the novel and the illustrations showing similar suits for men on the sea floor might have inspired Bernhardt.
The Copyright Office has a browsing system for hand-written catalog cards from 1870-1897. I don't fully understand the catalog structure but I have been able to determine that the photographer Napoleon Sarony submitted at least 40 photographs in 1880 that appear in groups under cards with the heading Bernhardt, Sarah. They are also listed in groups under cards with the heading Sarony (N). But I have not found captions for individual photographs.
This photo was held in the LoC's BIOG file and has a 4 written on it. Also in the file, with a 5 in the same hand is www.loc.gov/pictures/item/98503044/resource/ a photo of Bernhardt in another studio portrait. In this one, she is wearing the diver suit and holding the helmet. She and some props are in front of a painted backdrop of sea and cloudy sky.
Jan (LOC PP)
The woman in the photo is not identified as Sarah Bernhardt, but rather as Miss Bernhardt. If you compare this Miss Bernhardt to Sarah Bernhardt you will see that they are not the same person.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected] However, the neighboring photo of the same woman is identified as Sarah Bernhardt in a subject heading. I have been looking at lots of photos of Sarah Bernhardt and she can look quite different depending on the lighting and the character she is assuming as well as the camera angle. Is there another Miss Bernhardt who would warrant being included in the BIOG file?