Scandal… a follow up.

So I mentioned John Singer Sargent and Madame X previously. Not only is it one of my favorite works of art, but at the time it was exhibited, it caused an uproar. The artist became infatuated with Madame Pierre Gautreau, the young wife of a french banker who was two years younger than the artist. He spent a lot of time sketching and preparing and finally painting her.

When the painting was shown at the Paris Salon in 1884 it was immediately a scandal. Even in this time when full nudes were common place, it was THIS painting that was the talk of the city. The original painting showed the strap over her right shoulder having fallen. Ms. Gautreau had moved to fix it while posing, but Sargent said to leave it. THAT was too much for society to bear. That a high society woman would pose like that, with her strap off her shoulder, along with her pasty white skin and bold pose, Ms. Gautreau was humiliated by the poor public and critical reception. Sargent was effectively run out of France, settling London, never to fully recover the prominence he held in Europe.

He did over paint that portion to show the strap up. He hung it in his own studio for many years and even displayed it in other exhibitions. The painting now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Sargent sold it to the museum in 1916 saying, “I suppose it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”

As I mentioned before, I highly recommend the book “Strapless” by Deborah Davis.

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