In the privacy of her home or in the theatre, Sarah Bernhardt made her life into a spectacle at the service of her talent.
To achieve this, she managed to inspire the admiring complicity of painters, sculptor, photographers and poster designers, who depicted the many facets of her role as a Diva. The painter Clairin, who was her lover and then a loyal friend, remained the official portraitist of his illustrious muse for fifty years.
This large portrait showing the subject in a white satin dress, with a very studied nonchalance, was one of Sarah Bernhardt's favourites and she kept it all her life. In 1876 it heralded the Art Nouveau aesthetic, with its sinuous lines, pearlescent tones and the magnetism of a feminine presence that is both seductive and disquieting. When his mother died, Maurice Bernhardt donated it to the Petit Palais, where it keeps the myth of this great actress alive.