Since 1680, the actors have preserved their archives. A few portraits of authors adorned the assembly hall in the eighteenth century, but the collection of artworks was built up in the 1770s. During the period of designing and building of their new theatre on the Faubourg Saint-Germain (laterto become the Théâtre de l’Odéon) the actors hired the greatest sculptors of the time: in exchange for the marble busts representing the greatest authors of the Repertoire, they offered the artists lifetime free admission to their performances. The new authors’ gallery was intended to decorate the foyer of the future theatre. The collection was then enriched, not only with works of art, but also with books, manuscripts and a rich theatrical iconography, most of which were donated in the course of the nineteenth century. This policy continues to the present day.
A major acquisition: portrait of Mademoiselle Bourgoin
This painting (portrait of Mademoiselle Bourgoin in the role of Aldéir in Étienne de Jouy’s tragedy Tippo-Saëb, by Anthelme-François Lagrenée, circa 1813) was acquired thanks to the French state (via its Heritage Fund) and with the contribution of the Société des Comédiens-Français. It is a particularly important painting for the collections of the Comédie-Française, for it complements two other works by the same painter, the portrait of Mademoiselle George as Camille and that of Talma as Hamlet. These three portraits were presented at the Salon by the artist between 1810 and 1819 and form an aesthetic triptych representative of theatrical art in the early nineteenth century: the antique style incarnated by Mademoiselle George, the Gothic style depicted in the portrait of Talma, and the exotic style that one perceives in the choice of the portrait of Mademoiselle Bourgoin.
Mademoiselle Bourgoin (1781-1833) joined the Comédie-Française in 1799, and was a pupil of Mademoiselle Dumesnil. She became a sociétaire in 1802. She played ingenues, lovers, and characters in disguise. She seduced audiences with her grace and elegance, held a salon and was recognised for her wit. She accompanied the tour organised by Napoleon to Erfurt in 1808 and performed before the assembled European princes and kings. The following year, she was invited to St.Petersburg. Mademoiselle Bourgoin stood out particularly for her exotic roles: Zaïre, Roxelane in Favart’s Three Sultanas, and the role of Aldéir in Tippo-Saëb, which she premiered and performed fourteen times in the first production in 1813.
The tragedy of Tippo-Saëb was not very successful, if one is to believe the critics. The subject was nevertheless original since it was both exotic and contemporary. Tippo-Saëb (or Tippoo-Saib, 1750-1799) was an Indian hero contemporary to the author of the tragedy, reigning over the Empire of Mysore, which allied with the French in its war against England. The critic from the Journal de l’Empire (30 January 1813) complained the action was too static and the subject lacked vivacity: the audience knows from the beginning of the play that Tippo-Saëb is defeated, the English perfidiously demand that he deliver his children as hostages, which he refuses. Opposite Talma in the role of the Sultan, Mademoiselle Bourgoin played the part of Tippo-Saëb’s daughter, in which she was “full of sweetness and grace”, according to the critic.
The costume of the model at the same time evokes the fashion of the 1810s with the dress taken in under the chest and the very slightly puffed sleeves, and a stage costume for the turban with the tufted crest. The cashmere shawl of the Indies may be seen both as a reference to the fashion of the time and to Jouy’s play, since it was Tippo-Saëb’s ambassadors who presented Louis XVI with the first shawls of this type to appear in France. Here, Mademoiselle Bourgoin adopts an outfit that is both a reference to the stage and the city. This kind of ambiguity was typical of this actress, who was not frankly committed to the reform of costume design, and who, like Mademoiselle Mars, preferred to appear on stage in the latest fashion rather than in a picturesque costume.
She is also situated in this “in-between” in spatial terms by being represented in one of the corner stairs of the Théâtre-Français, between the public and the private spaces of the theatre.
Mercredi 29 mai à 18h, suivez la présentation EN DIRECT de la saison 2019-2020 par Éric Ruf, sur notre page Facebook.
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Suite au renforcement du plan Vigipirate, toute personne se présentant avec une valise ou un sac (hors sac à main) se verra interdire l'accès à l'enceinte des trois théâtres de la Comédie-Française.
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