I was at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, this weekend and in the European art galleries, my friend Lisa Graf drew my attention to this large goth inkwell, a self-portrait by none other than Sarah Bernhardt.
Who knew that the iconic actress was also a sculptor? This surprising, fantastical, self-portrait-as-inkwell has the body of a griffon, wings of a bat, and tail of a fish.
According to the MFA’s online collections information: “The mysterious image of the artist as a sphinx seems to be a metaphor for her ability to transform herself, both on stage and off. The … combination of natural forms is related to contemporary Art Nouveau jewelry and ornamentation as well as to the imagery and techniques of sixteenth-century Mannerist bronzes. Her profession as actress is depicted by Tragic and Comic masks as epaulettes on her shoulders.”
Inscriptions: Marked: Sarah Bernhardt on right base; 1880 on right base. Founder Mark: THIEBAUT FRERES/FONDEURS/PARIS.