size(cm): 60x27
Sale price£137 GBP


Madame Pierre Gautreau (Virginie Amélie Avegno, born Louisiana; 1859-1915) was known in Paris for her witty looks.

Sargent hoped to enhance his reputation by painting and displaying his portrait. Working without commission but with the complicity of her nanny, she emphasized her daring personal style, showing the right strap of her dress slipping off her shoulder.

When this portrait was first exhibited, it received more ridicule than praise. Originally the painting showed the jeweled strap slipping off the woman's shoulder, but the artwork shocked upper-class society.

When he finally sold it to the Metropolitan Museum, the artist commented, "I guess that's the best thing I've ever done," but asked the museum to disguise the sitter's name.

Madame X blends the Gilded Age penchant for portraying status and wealth in portraiture with a bold and seductive aesthetic. However, despite all that surprised viewers, many of its details were based on older classical traditions: Madame Gautreau's hairstyle is based on one from ancient Greece, and she wears a diamond crescent that is the symbol of the huntress Diana.

John Singer Sargent intended portraiture to establish his reputation, and despite the notoriety it attracted, the work was successful: Madame X publicized her ability to paint her sitters as flatteringly and elegantly as possible, and led to a healthy career. in Britain and in high esteem in America from the late 1880s onward.

Although the artist was born a supervisor, traveled the world and spent much of his life abroad, Sargent's career truly matured in his family's homeland and he always considered himself an American artist. He worked for nearly three decades on a mural commission for the Boston Public Library, frequently painted other American expatriates, and in 1906 was made a full scholar of the National Academy of Design in New York.

In 1916, the Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased Madame X. The painting, which debuted to severe disparagement but is today treasured as a beloved masterpiece in Western art history, is just one example of a work of art that evolved gradually from impersonating the damned to the celebrated. Much of a work's initial reception is based on society's tastes, etiquette standards, and values ​​of the time, and as these attitudes change over the decades, audiences may begin to look at older paintings. with new eyes.

Sargent's Madame X is perhaps a more dramatic example of this trend, but it raises intriguing questions about what really defines a work of art's popularity, legacy, and fame.

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