Portemanteau porte-parapluie aux initiales et à la devise de Sarah Bernhardt
With its medieval inspiration, this coat and umbrella stand is a marvellous example of the adaptation of historical references to domestic purposes.The unusually elegant structure has two compartments of equal size. They are divided by three pieces of wrought iron decorated with elements from Gothic architecture. It is a modern version of the cathedral style that flourished in the decorative arts in France under the Restoration and the July monarchy.
In short, the stand is a fine transitional work between the historicist furniture still in vogue at the time and Art Nouveau. It owes much to the research of architects and decorators who were enamoured with Gothic art, such as Viollet-le-Duc, Ruprich-Robert or Eugène Grasset.
The upper part, the coat stand proper, is supported by a rod of wrought iron flanked by three very fine twisted columns. The shield bearing Sarah Bernhardt's initials and motto "Quand même" is fixed to it. The provocative motto ("Nevertheless") expresses Sarah's stubbornness and tenacity in the face of setbacks in her career or private life. The presence of these inscriptions on the stand seems to be an ironic flouting of the old usages of the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie, particularly by an actress, even if she was one of the most famous women in the world.
The stand is unsigned and is difficult to attribute to any particular craftsman. But whoever made this small wrought iron wonder satisfied the Divine's taste for bizarre, refined objects and the great artistic references of the past.