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"Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful"

Claudia, TAG Member

Posted: Monday, April 30, 2012

Claudia, second from the left, and other TAG members record their observations about Sargent's Madame X. Photograph by Emily Perreault.

«Virginie Avegno Gautreau (Madame X) was twenty-four when John Singer Sargent painted her portrait. He originally painted it with the right strap of her dress hanging off her shoulder, but the work received such criticism at the 1884 Parisian salon exhibition that he later repainted the strap. When Sargent sold this portrait to the Met, he asked the Museum to title the work Madame X so that she and her family would not be shamed by the painting's reception.»

The dress and its style are most striking to me. Since Sargent paints Madame X in the center of the painting, her dress is very prominent. She looks like the popular girl of the late nineteenth century, dressed in the latest fashion. Her pale skin is powdered with fine lavender makeup (you can see her real skin color in the pink of her ear), her eyebrows are probably drawn on, and her hair is auburn from henna dye.

She wears a wedding ring and holds a fan in her left hand. With her right hand she effortlessly leans on the wooden table in the portrait. The table has three legs supported by nude male figures carved in the classical style. In her hair, she wears a half-moon, a symbol associated with the goddess Diana.

I think her expression makes her look uninviting, almost like she is closely watching someone. She also looks like she is showing her body off and doesn't want to be bothered with looking at the viewer. If Madame X had a motto, I think it would be: "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful."

In my artwork below, I used a multicolor pencil to draw a figure and dress similar to those in Madame X's portrait but with much more movement. The figure is without a face because, like Madame X, her dress is the focus of the piece.

What motto would you give Madame X?

We welcome your response to this question below.


  • Nicole says:

    I would give Madame X the motto, “I know I’m fabulous” because Madame X gives off such confidence. She stands up straight with her nose in the air like she is superior. She also knows that she is fabulous because of the way she is dressed. She is clutching her dress in her hand, almost acknowledging how luxurious and gorgeous it is. Finally, Madame X seems so removed, with her eyes adrift and focus somewhere else. She seems to know who she is and isn’t afraid to show it!

    Posted: May 14, 2012, 1:52 p.m.

  • Claudia says:

    Hi its Claudia! TAG MEMBER!
    Thank you so much for your comment Nicole! I really appreciate your view on this picture! I think we have a similar idea here! She reminds me so much of Kristin Stewart! She knows shes beautiful and no one will take that away from her!

    Posted: May 14, 2012, 10:42 p.m.

  • Helenka says:

    "Never judge a book by its cover"

    Posted: May 27, 2012, 2:29 p.m.

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About the Author

Claudia is a member of the Museum's Teen Advisory Group.

About this Blog

This blog, written by the Metropolitan Museum's Teen Advisory Group (TAG) and occasional guest authors, is a place for teens to talk about art at the Museum and related topics.