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Fantastic Inkwell (Self-Portrait as a Sphinx)

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Depicted with bat's wings, and griffon's tail, a horned skull supporting inkwell. Her profession as actress depicted by Tragic and Comic masks as epaulettes on her shoulders.


Marked: Sarah Bernhardt on right base; 1880 on right base. Founder Mark: THIEBAUT FRERES/FONDEURS/PARIS


1880, possibly with the artist and exhibited at the Union League Club, New York [see note 1]. 1973, Shepherd Gallery, New York [see note 2]; 1973, sold by the Shepherd Gallery to the MFA. (Accession Date: November 14, 1973) NOTES: [1] As suggested by Judith Applegate, MFA Bulletin 73, no. 369 (1975): 37, the MFA inkwell may be the third cast made, exhibited in New York in 1880. See "Sarah Bernhardt Souvenir, Including The Authorized Catalogue of Her Paintings and Sculpture" (New York, 1880), cat. no. 18. [2] In a letter to the MFA (October 9, 1973), Shepherd Gallery indicated that the inkwell was purchased "from an importer on Long Island who gave us no significant provenance on the piece."

Credit Line

Helen and Alice Colburn Fund

French (Paris), 1880


Overall (without base): 31.8 x 34.9 x 31.8 cm (12 1/2 x 13 3/4 x 12 1/2 in.)

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Medium or Technique