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This is the story behind the legendary John Singer Sargent painting that propelled the artist to international renown but condemned his subject to a life of public ridicule. John Singer Sargent's Madame X is one of the world's best-known portraits. Few people, though, know the fascinating story behind the painting. "Madame X" was actually a twenty-three-year-old New Orleans Creole, Virginie Gautreau, who moved to Paris and quickly became the "it girl" of her day. All the leading artists wanted to paint her, but it was Sargent, a relative nobody, who won the commission. But when it was unveiled at the 1884 Paris Salon, Gautreau's portrait led its subject to infamy rather than stardom. Sargent had painted one strap of Gautreau's dress dangling from her shoulder, suggesting, to outraged Parisian viewers, either the prelude or the aftermath of sex. Her reputation ruined, Gautreau eventually retreated from society, destroying all the mirrors in her house. In contrast, Sargant's reputation grew and he became both rich and renowned. Today, his work is admired, and Madame X, designed to make a reputation but wreaking ruin and scandal, has become an iconic image of an age.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780750937061
ISBN-10: 0750937068
Format: Paperback
(230mm x 140mm x 20mm)
Pages: 239
Imprint: Sutton Publishing Ltd
Publisher: The History Press Ltd
Publish Date: 15-Apr-2004
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

UK Kirkus Review » 'Detestable!' 'Monstrous!' 'Vulgar!' were just three of the adjectives hurled by critics and the public at the painting Madame X when it was first displayed at the Paris Salon in 1884. Not only was artist John Singer Sargent excoriated for indecency, but model Amelie Gautreau was vilified as little more than a whore. Both were forced to flee Paris with their reputations in tatters. And the offence? Sargent had painted a portrait of Gautreau in a black gown, the strap having slid from her milky right shoulder to the side of her arm, thus provoking an image of sexual invitation or possibly the suggestion of an unfinished post-coital sartorial rearrangement. It is impossible to imagine such a painting causing a similar public outrage today, and author Deborah Davis has researched her subject thoroughly to produce a fascinating book providing biographical details of both Sargent and Gautreau, as well as the aftermath of the scandal, during which Sargent actually repainted the strap on Gautreau's shoulder. Highly recommended. (Kirkus UK)


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Author Biography - Deborah Davis

Deborah Davis is a writer and veteran film executive who has worked as a story editor and story analyst. She is co-organising an exhibition of Sargent's Women for exhibition in New York with Richard Ormond and writing the exhibition catalogue.

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