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Strapless (original 2003; edition 2004)
Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X by Deborah Davis (2003)
References to this work on external resources.
Wikipedia in English (1)
Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 158542336X, Paperback)
The subject of John Singer Sargent's most famous painting was twenty-three-year-old New Orleans Creole Virginie Gautreau, who moved to Paris and quickly became the "it girl" of her day. A relative unknown at the time, Sargent won the commission to paint her; the two must have recognized in each other a like-minded hunger for fame.
Unveiled at the 1884 Paris Salon, Gautreau's portrait generated the attention she craved-but it led to infamy rather than stardom. Sargent had painted one strap of Gautreau's dress dangling from her shoulder, suggesting either the prelude to or the aftermath of sex. Her reputation irreparably damaged, Gautreau retired from public life, destroying all the mirrors in her home.
Drawing on documents from private collections and other previously unexamined materials, and featuring a cast of characters including Oscar Wilde and Richard Wagner, Strapless is a tale of art and celebrity, obsession and betrayal.
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:44 -0400)
"Parisian gossip columns were bursting with news of twenty-three-year-old Virginie Amelie Gautreau, whose stunning looks and unconventional behavior had made her the city's hottest "it girl." The fame-hungry Gautreau soon met John Singer Sargent, an up-and-coming artist eager to collaborate on a portrait that would catapult them both to the pinnacle of society." "Sargent's painting of Gautreau was shown at the 1884 Paris Salon. But while Sargent, the American son of vagabond parents, rose to lasting stardom, Gautreau - cultivated since childhood to be admired and envied - was ridiculed, then utterly forgotten." "How did their destinies come to be so sharply overturned? The answer, Deborah Davis reveals in Strapless, lies in Sargent's portrait. Madame X, as it hangs today in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, depicts Gautreau in a black gown with two jeweled shoulder straps. But in the original painting, one strap fell from Gautreau's upper arm in an intimation of sex - igniting a critical frenzy that shattered Gautreau's reputation and sent Sargent in flight to England." "Drawing on previously unexamined family papers and documents discovered in libraries and private collections, Davis explores the tantalizing mysteries at the heart of Madame X. Why did Sargent paint his subject in such a deliberately provocative manner, and why did Gautreau acquiesce? Could they have anticipated that a fallen strap would shock even decadent Belle Epoque Paris, and agreed that celebrity would be worth the scandal? If so, what later moved Sargent to repaint Gautreau's strap to sit chastely on her shoulder?" "With its revelations about Gautreau's identity and an eyebrow raising cast of characters including Richard Wagner, Henry James, Sarah Bernhardt, and Dr. Samuel Pozzi, Gautreau's notorious gynecologist/lover, this enthralling account exposes the Dorian Gray-like tale of beauty and infatuation, obsession and betrayal, that lies behind Sargent and Gautreau's masterpiece."--BOOK JACKET.
(summary from another edition)
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