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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Eleanor Duse

b. 1858, near Vigevano, Italy; d. 1924, Pittsburgh

Eleonora Duse, known for her roles in plays by Gabriele D’Annunzio and Henrik Ibsen, was considered by many to be one of the most gifted actresses of her time. Born into a theatrical family, she made her first stage appearance at age four, but she was not acclaimed for her acting abilities until she played the leading role in Émile Zola’s Thérèse Raquin (1878). In 1882, a performance by Sarah Bernhardt inspired Duse to add French contemporary plays to her repertoire, in order to increase the interest of Italian audiences, who seemed bored by the standard theater productions. After touring in South America, Duse returned to Italy, founded the Drama Company of the City of Rome, and continued touring throughout Europe and the United States. She retired from acting in 1909 but financial losses sustained in 1921 forced her to resume performing. Duse died in Pittsburgh, the last stop in a tour through the United States.