"Madame Pierre Gautreau (Madame X)"
John Singer Sargent
When Madame X
was shown at the Salon of 1884 it instantly became a scandal in French
society as a result of the sexual suggestiveness of the Madame's pose, the pale
pasty color of her skin and the reddish pink of her ear. The doors of the Salon
were hardly open before the picture was damned. The onslaught was led by the
Madame's relatives. A demand was made that the picture be withdrawn. If the
picture was not withdrawn the family planned to wait until the Salon closed,
take the painting and destroy it. Anticipating this, Sargent, before the
exhibition was over, took it away himself. Madame Gautreau's reputation was
apparently destroyed and John left France shortly thereafter, never to truly
regain his former standing as the darling of Paris. After remaining many years
in his studio, the portrait now figures as one of the glories of the
Metropolitan Museum in New York.