Sarah Bernhardt: Et la femme créa la star (2023), Petit Palais Exposition and Publication

Piper worked in collaboration with the Palais Galliera and the Petit Palais on the exhibition Sarah Bernhardt: Et la femme créa la star, which ran from April 14, 2023 through August 27, 2023. The exhibition explored the life and many costumes of the world-famous French actress Sarah Bernhardt. Visitors were given a glimpse into Bernhardt’s life, including the extravagant fashions which played a large role in her professional life. Working alongside the Palais Galliera’s conservator of 20th century collections Sophie Grossiord, Piper was directed to uncover information about Bernhardt’s costumes and wardrobe from her first American tour which took place in November 1880 until May 1881.

Through archival media research Piper was able to compile an extensive list of journal articles from major American publications like the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Boston Globe. She also conducted research into smaller publications from rural towns and cities which gave a more intimate portrait of the actress. As maligned as she was beloved, these newspapers and satire journals used her slim figure and her illegitimate son, Maurice, as targets to comment upon her physical appearance and moral character. However, no matter how many clergymen attacked her in the press, her wardrobe and costumes remained of the utmost importance to readers, with nearly all publications describing her stage costumes and fashion statements made at engagements across the country. The most significant of her discoveries, Piper uncovered previously unknown information about Bernhardt’s relationship with the dressmaker Félix, as well as a detailed description written by the designer himself of the many costumes he created for the stage actress. In addition to her research, Piper translated upwards of one hundred articles from French to English and created a thorough chronology of Bernhardt’s time spent traveling across the United States.

Piper’s research was then employed by historian and conservator Catherine Join-Dieterle in her chapter ‘Le Style Sarah Bernhardt: à la scène comme à la ville’, as seen in the exhibition’s corresponding publication.