For his first participation in the Salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-arts, which had just been founded in Paris, Roll presented two large portraits of actors who were amongst the most popular at the time: Jane Hading (1859-1941) and her stage partner Ernest Coquelin (1848-1909). Roll was an ardent advocate of Realism, and considered that a good portrait consisted of a figure who looked alive painted in their social environment.
Jane Hading - whose real name was Jeanne-Alfrédine Tréfouret – performed from childhood alongside her father, who played in Marseille, Cairo and Algiers. After arriving in Paris, she abandoned her modest ingénue roles to try her luck in operetta, and then in boulevard theatre. Her marriage to the director of the Le Gymnase theatre, soon followed by a highly publicised divorce in 1888, made her a Paris celebrity. Like Sarah Bernhardt twenty years earlier, she made only a short foray into the Comédie Française in 1893.
Boulevard theatre, in which Jane Hading was a renowned figure, required charismatic actors who could captivate the audience. In his Journal, Edmond de Goncourt praised the beauty of this “so very enticing” woman. “With her luxuriant potash dyed hair, similar to the golden brown hair of 16th century courtesans, and with her unusually pale skin [...]she reminds me greatly of those Gallo Roman busts in the Musée d’Arles, where a typically Greek appearance has been combined with the rather roguish modernity of the Marseille physique” (18 December 1885).
Roll’s broad and direct style candidly reproduces the Greek beauty of this enticing thirty-year-old woman, who is posing in an evening dress. The screen decorated with cranes which adorns the sitting room reminds us that, in Paris, the decorative arts were strongly influenced by the fashion of Japonism.
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