Apr 1, 2007

Madame X


This portrait of Madame Gautreau, a haughty Parisian beauty, created such a scandal at the Paris Salon in 1884 that the artist John Singer Sargeant had to withdraw it. I first saw this fabulous painting in the Tate Gallery in London, and then another version at the Metropolitan Museum of Art some years later.

A. Hyatt Mayer writes about Madame Gautreau: "Her studied, indifferent, statuesque presence stopped parties, stopped traffic in the street....But one day on the beach at Cannes, Madame Gautreau overheard a woman say that she was beginning to look worn. She drove in a closed carriage to her hotel, took a darkened compartment on the train to Paris, and shut herself up for the rest of her life in dim rooms without mirrors."

Read more about this unforgettable painting here and here.

6 comments:

Biby Cletus said...

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Warm Regards

Biby Cletus - Blog

BigAssBelle said...

oh my goodness! what a sad, sad thing, to shut oneself up in a darkened room on the basis of some worthless sow's jealous remark.

the implication in that act seems indicate a self absorption to extreme that she must have been miserable as well as stunning.

who can measure up to perfection? even the perfect one would struggle, i think.

happily i have never had to fret about these matters, perfect being such an elusive quality that i've simply abandoned the pursuit and focused on more pleasant things.

BigAssBelle said...

oh good grief.

seems indicate = seems to indicate

self absorption to extreme = self absorption so extreme

wake up! wake up!

Marius said...

That's a lovely portrait. I agree with bigassbelle; it is a sad thing. What really gets to me is that people can't seem to accept that growing old is a part of life. We can't stay young forever.

eric3000 said...

This painting is amazing! I've seen both versions of it, too.

The strap on the dress was originally falling down her arm but Sargent was forced to repaint it because it was too sexy. This is why the bust of the dress looks a little off.

Gautreau and her mother (who sounds like a stage mother) complained about the pose because it makes her arm look too muscular.

Being a goth, of course, I was always fascinated by her pale skin. She wore lavender colored makeup on her whole upper body but the funny thing is that she used rouge on her ears because red ears were supposed to be very sexy!

She was an early performance artist. She became famous just by standing around looking beautiful and, yes, when she couldn't do that anymore, she spent the rest of her life under a veil.

Oh, she also might have been the lover of the subject of another famous Sargent portrait (at the Armand Hammer Museum, Los Angeles), Dr. Samuel Jean Pozzi.

potty mouth princess said...

Damn you Ms. Place. Because of posts like this I'm *this* close to changing my major to art history. :-)

Fascinating and informative, as always.