A couple of ladies at the MET in New York stop to read the label in front of John Singer Sargent's iconic portrait of Madame X. Madame Gautreau (Madame X) was an American beauty brought up in Paris, who quickly became a notorious Parisian socialite. She became known for her extramarital affairs and her shocking style, wearing lavender and rice powders to make herself look pale, dyeing her hair red with henna and even adding rouge to her ears. Sargent, an American artist born and raised in Europe, hoped to enhance his reputation by painting and exhibiting her portrait. He finally managed to persuade her to sit for him in 1883. Following numerous attempts to capture the right pose, Sargent became frustrated with the fidgety and distracted Gautreau calling her "the unpaintable beauty". Eventually, he did manage to capture her likeness where he emphasized her daring personal style, showing the right strap of her gown slipping from her shoulder. The portrait debuted at the Paris Salon of 1884, where it was ridiculed by the public and critics alike. Madame Gautreau's mother, realizing the portrait they found charming was going to scandalize the family, begged Sargent to remove it from the Salon but he refused. Later, Sargent repainted the shoulder strap and kept the painting in his studio for over thirty years. Following the death of Madame Gautreau in 1915, he sold the portrait to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, commenting at the time that, "I suppose it is the best thing I have done," but asked that the Museum disguise the sitter's name.
Oil on Hardboard
24 x 18 Inches
Artist's own collection - Not for sale