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La Carmencita

John Singer Sargent American

Not on view

Sargent may have first encountered the Spanish dancer known as La Carmencita (1868–1910) at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris. In 1890, she took New York by storm, performing regularly at a music hall on Twenty-Third Street. She captivated Sargent, who called her a "bewildering superb creature." It was not long before he persuaded her to pose for him, though she was a restless and demanding sitter.
Although Sargent made many studies of her performing, for this massive painting, he opted to portray her stationary. Her face, like that of several of Sargent’s models of the time, is rendered white and masklike from cosmetics, with arched eyebrows, hinting at a proud, even haughty presence. Sargent executed the portrait swiftly, leaving parts, like the arm, unfinished. Some critics condemned the portrait, perhaps because Sargent had represented a common music hall performer in such a monumental way.

La Carmencita, John Singer Sargent (American, Florence 1856–1925 London), Oil on canvas , American

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