Collection

#12

Madame X

original title

Madame X, (Madame Pierre Gautreau)

The artwork

date

1884

details

Oil, canvas

Realism
Portrait
234.95 cm × 109.86 cm

Links

The artist

John Singer Sargent

January 12, 1856

American

Where to see it

The Metropolitan Museum of Art​

"Every time I paint a portrait I lose a friend."
John Singer Sargent

Why we love it

Madame X is perhaps Sargent’s most infamous painting. Virginie Amélie Gautreau, an American aristocrat who lived in Paris, is portrayed by the most sought-after painter of the moment, creating the most iconic and controversial female portrait of the late 19th century. In an elegant black dress with a long neckline, she represents a lady of character and very modern for her time.

In the first versions, one of the straps of Madame X’s dress fell sensually on her shoulder, but the scandal was such that it had to be retouched. The painter would keep the painting until he sells it to the Metropolitan Museum, requesting that the title be changed to hide the identity of the model. 

Although the painting was very poorly received at the beginning, it has subsequently had a great influence, especially in the world of fashion. Rochas or Dior have created models of black dresses with a sweetheart neckline, based on the model of Madame X.

The social tastes and values of the time, reviled the painting, but as these attitudes change, we look at these works with different eyes. We can ask ourselves questions about what really defines the popularity, legacy and fame of a work of art.

This is just our small contribution, your curiosity can do the rest.

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