Venanci Vallmitjana I Barbany (Barcelone, 1803 – Barcelone, 1905)
Sculpture in terracotta representing Sarah Bernhardt in nude interlacing a lion
On a wood molded base carying a gilded inscription ” a Sarah Bernhardt su admirador y amigo J. Carbonell – barna mayo 1882″ signed ” V Vallmitjana”
Height without the base : 39,5 cm
Length : 60 cm
Depth : 25 cm
Provenance : old collection Sarah Bernhardt
After leaving the Comédie Française with a bang in 1880, Sarah Bernhardt created her company with which she left to play and make a fortune abroad until 1917. She played successively in London, Copenhagen, the United States, Russia and Spain. She then performed in Barcelona, at the Lyric Theater, from April to May 1882, and enchanted spectators in the role of the Lady of the Camellias. The actress was photographed by the Catalan artist Pau Audouard, and the press reported on the event (Sarah Bernhardt en Barcelona, Ilustracion artistica, March 30, 1882, p.138). Dedicated to Sarah Bernhardt in May 1882 by “her friend and admirer” J. Carbonell, our terracotta by Catalan sculptor Venancio Vallmitjana bears witness to the success of the actress during her time in Barcelona. Unfortunately, we have not been able to identify the generous donor, but it seems to be an influential personality, because the most important figures of the city and the country passed through the sculptor’s workshop to place orders with him. A student at the Barcelona Lonja School of the sculptor Damian Campeny, Venancio Vallmitjana received his first official commission in 1854 for the church of Los Santos Justos y pastor. In 1860, Queen Isabelle II ordered a Saint-George from him. In 1873, he participated in the competition organized by Le Figaro, and his sculpture, kept at the Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona, without winning the first prize, allowed him to come into contact with the sculptors Carpeaux and Laurens. He worked on the decoration of the University of Barcelona, but it is undoubtedly his Venus dominating the waterfalls of the Parc de la Ciudadela which is considered his major work. In 1883, he became a professor at the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona, and trained, among others, many modernist sculptors such as Pablo Gargallo or Josep Llimona. Venancio Vallmitjana’s career is inseparable from that of his brother Agapito, with whom he shared his studio until 1883.