— "15 Texts I Almost Sent You" by d.a.s (via backshelfpoet)
Poison Ivy (1992)
John Singer Sargent
Madame Pierre Gautreau (Madame X)
Oil on canvas
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.
She is dressed in a long black satin skirt and low-cut black velvet bodice, her shoulders bare except for two slim jeweled straps. She holds both shoulders back and her head cocked sharply to the left, giving full cameo emphasis to the remarkable profile.
Her left arm on her hip, she holds her skirt with the left hand, while the right arm is oddly turned back on itself, her right hand grips the top of the side table. She wears her hair up, with a tiny diamond tiara on top. It is a flagrantly stagy pose, which could only have been difficult to hold for any length of time, even for one who was a poser by nature. Against the deep black of the dress, the deathly blue-white of her powdered skin is even more strange and striking. When, during one sitting her right shoulder strap dropped suggestively over her arm, Sargent requested she leave it that way. In contrast to his usual approach, he worked and reworked the canvas, simplifying and redefining edges.