John Singer Sargent: Portrait of Madame X


Today is the birthday of the great American portraitist John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). His great life-sized masterpiece, informally called “Portrait of Madame X” hangs in the Met Museum. The fact that it caused an enormous scandal when it was first exhibited in 1884 speaks volumes about the era about which we frequently write here. In its time, the picture was considered indecently erotic: the bare shoulders, the pale skin, and something about the languorous, in-profile pose all telegraphed bedroom sentiments to its contemporaries, and frankly, I can see it!

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