The Great Sarah Bernhardt Asleep in Her Coffin, Silver gelatin print, circa 1882Quote and image via Liquid Night Tumbr found via Wisdom and Life Tumblr (my apologies for the earlier mis-credit). You can find out more about the excellent book from which it was drawn--Sleeping Beauty II - Grief, Bereavement and the Family in Memorial Photography by Stanley B. Burns, M.D.--by clicking here.
This iconoclastic Frenchwoman was arguably the most famous actress of the 19th century. She went on to become a film star in the early 20th century. In the 1880s, Bernhardt (1844-1923) made her own funeral arrangements. She picked out her own coffin because she was going to “sleep” in it forever. She had it delivered to her home and regularly slept in it. In her 1907 autobiography she wrote, “My bedroom was very tiny. The big bamboo bed took up all the room. In front of the window was my coffin, where I frequently installed myself to learn my lines.”
Bernhardt has this photograph taken in the classic postmortem style of the early 1880s. Though she was 78 years old when she died, this photograph depicts her in a death pose while she was still young and beautiful. Thus, this ersatz postmortem photo is the image many associate with her death.
From Sleeping Beauty II - Grief, Bereavement and the Family in Memorial Photography by Stanley B. Burns, M.D.