Madame X (1883-1884)

Sargent, John Singer (1856-1925)

Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau)
Oil on canvas, 208.6 x 109.9 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Madame Pierre Gautreau (the Louisiana-born Virginie Amélie Avegno; 1859–1915) was known in Paris for her artful appearance. Sargent hoped to enhance his reputation by painting and exhibiting her portrait. Working without a commission but with his sitter’s complicity, he emphasized her daring personal style, showing the right strap of her gown slipping from her shoulder. At the Salon of 1884, the portrait received more ridicule than praise. Sargent repainted the shoulder strap and kept the work for over thirty years. When, eventually, he sold it to the Metropolitan, he commented, “I suppose it is the best thing I have done,” but asked that the Museum disguise the sitter’s name. (MET)

See also:

• Avegno Gautreau, Virginie Amélie (1859-1915)