Paintings Around the World

Portrait of Madame X by John Singer Sargent in 1884


Portrait of Madame X painted in 1884 by John Singer Sargent

The portrait of Madame X was painted in 1884 by John Singer Sargent. The lady depicted in the painting is of a young socialite, Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau, wife of the French banker Pierre Gautreau. The painting was not commissioned but by a request that John asked of Virginie, Virginie was known for her beauty and her love affairs.

The original painting had the right pearl strap off the shoulder, this decision face scrutiny to John and his family because it was seen as to provocative along with the plunging neckline. The strap was painted over and replaced to depict the strap on the shoulder.

The painting caused backlashed from the public to both John and Pierre the husband of Virginie because it was “a brazen(bold without shame) image of brazen woman.”

The Portrait of Madame X sports a beautiful mermaid tail shaped dress with a sweetheart neckline and pearl like straps. Although hard to see Madame X holds a black fan in her left hand and a crescent moon shaped hair pin. The painting is called Madame X to have a “More assertive, dramatic, mysterious name.”