Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau)
John Singer Sargent American
Virginie Avegno Gautreau (1859–1915), an expatriate from Louisiana, was a familiar figure in Parisian society, known for her artful appearance, which she accentuated with dramatic cosmetics and clothing. She fascinated Sargent, who undertook this portrait without a commission, hoping to enhance his reputation by exhibiting it at the Salon. The portrait, which emphasizes Gautreau's egotism and glamour and exaggerates her daring style (the right strap of her gown was originally shown slipping from her shoulder), shocked many viewers. In 1884, critic Louis de Fourcaud recognized the portrait as a description of a new type of woman who used her appearance to acquire celebrity and social standing. Like an artist or an actor, the "professional beauty" enacted a role in Parisian society, which Sargent sought to record in this image. After the Salon, Sargent repainted the shoulder strap and kept the picture.
#4368. Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau)
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