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November 3, 2006

Madame XBethany posted about her Friday Favorites, the painting by John Singer Sargent, Carnation Lily Lily Rose. Sargent is one of my favorite portrait artists and I saw an exhibition of his work at the National Gallery of Art some years ago, bringing together all of his famous pieces.

It reminded me of an intriguing book called Strapless by Deborah Davis about Sargent’s most famous painting, Madame X. I’d always loved that stunning painting, but I had no idea the story behind it. It looks rather conventional to our 21st century eyes, but the public fallout and disfavor for the painting destroyed Virginie Gautreau, the woman who commissioned and posed for the painting. The painting as it exists today was repainted by the artist to have both straps on her shoulders, and is not the way it was first painted with one strap dangling. It’s interesting to me that the Paris public, so licentious at this time when men openly had mistresses and married women flirted with other men, that they found this painting so damning. It’s an interesting story of the public’s fickleness and how pursuing vanity and fame led to one woman’s downfall.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. zoanna permalink
    November 3, 2006 11:49 am

    Double standards will get people in trouble all the time. I wonder if the women of her day criticized her more hotly than the men. I personally think she got what she deserved if she posed with a dangling strap, or in such a revealing dress anyway. What’s the quote Laurie shared about “every man wants to lust and every woman wants to be lusted after”–something like that? Beautiful gown, lovely face, but I might have suggested a shawl for the lady. Good review, Danielle. Well expressed.

  2. November 3, 2006 11:49 am

    I never knew that either. Sounds like a facinating book. Thanks for the recommendation. We have a channel on satalite called gallery that I love that tells all these behind the scenes stories of paintings and artists.

  3. Ashleigh permalink
    November 3, 2006 4:01 pm

    Interesting story! It’s always fascinating to learn stories behind paintings, photographs, books, or films.

    I really liked how you ended your post with “It’s an interesting story of the public’s fickleness and how pursuing vanity and fame led to one woman’s downfall.” As Zoanna said, very well expressed. A good reminder of the problems that can arise when we seek the wrong things.

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