Portrait of Madame X by John Singer Sargent (1883-4)

This is a gorgeous and scandalous portrait quite unlike most of Sargent’s portraits, in that it was not a commission.

It is the portrait of Virginie Gautreau, a Parisian beauty born in America.

Sargent showed this portrait in 1884 in the famous Salon: the resulting scandal ended Sargent’s career as a portrait painter in France… but started him down the same path in the United Kingdom and the United States.

The painting is at least 6 ft. tall, creating an imposing canvas even before one considers the contrast of dark and light, the seductive boldness of the subject, and the daring choice to pose her in profile, with one strap dangling… which was one early version, repainted by Sargent later.


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