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Strapless Paperback – May 3, 2004
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"An entertaining, observant novel about the gorgeous, enigmatic Madame X." --from Bustle.com's roundup of "11 Novels Every Art History-Lover Should Pick Up"
"A stunner about a stunner." —The Philadelphia Inquirer
"The book's pace is lively and its breadth impressive." —Houston Chronicle
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Here, author Deborah Davis traces the lives of artist John Singer Sargent and the subject of his most famous painting, Madame X.
Madame X was a renowned beauty in late 19th century Paris named Virginie Gautreau. Oddly, both Sargent and Gautreau were American ex-patriates, and Davis does an excellent job of describing the American colony in Paris at that particular time.
At the moment of its completion, in the portrait of Virginie, her gown had a strap depicted as falling off her shoulder. So decadent was this considered, so blatantly alluding to things sensual, that the portrait caused a scandal.
Sargent then was considered a rising star and both he and Virginie expected this portrait to solidify their places among the stars of the Belle Epoque. Yet luster would not be added to either of their reputations, not even after Sargent had re-painted the strap into its proper place.
Sargent fled to England, where his prestige slowly recovered. Gautreau, however, remained a virtual outcast of society as a consequence of the negative reaction. Over the decades, Sargent has remained famous, while Virginie's actual name has fallen into obscurity.
And if Davis had not decided to step in and tell the whole tale, Virgine probably would have remained obscure. STRAPLESS shows marvelous research about a fascinating moment in time.
Most people know John Singer Sargent's infamous painting "Madame X" even if they don't know the name and have never heard of the artist because this painting has quite the sensational story attached to it.
According to surrounding lore, Sargent initially painted "Madame X" with the right strap of her black gown slipping off of her shoulder.When the painting debuted at the 1884 Salon in Paris ( the place to have a painting displayed at the time and a good signifier of current or future artistic success) it created an uproar, so scandalous was the pose. Indeed, facing numerous charges of the painting's indecency, Sargent eventually repainted the strap sitting firmly, and properly, on Madame's shoulder.
Pursuing my art history minor in New York City I had the amazing opportunity to see "Madame X" in person at the Metropolitan Museum. The painting has always had a special place in my heart for, if nothing else, the drama associated with its debut. So I was very pleased when a copy of Deborah Davis' book Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X (2004) fell into my lap.
Part historical research, part biography, part social commentary, part feminist text, Deborah Davis handles a lot of material in a relatively small volume (320 pages with font of average size and relevant pictures included). One of the reasons Davis decided to research this particular painting and its subject is because so little information remains about Virginie Amelie Gautreau, her life, or how Sargent came to paint her scandalous portrait.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A very interesting story of art and manipulation in the shallow setting of French society as the 19th century moves to a close. Read morePublished 28 days ago by Elspath Evans
I liked it a lot as it tells much of the background to a famous piece of art. It's hard to understand how the painting could have made such a stir in its day.Published 3 months ago by Suanne Huffman
Great book for my art group book club. Sargent life was fascinating.Published 3 months ago by Wende L. Woodham
I love the painting,love the artist and loved the back story
A great read
JSS is my fave and I read everything about him. However, I thought that Madame X loved the work before its notoriety.Published 4 months ago by DFR
While documented in a scholarly matter, the style of the writing made it more like a novel. Great read for art lovers.Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is an interesting book of an artist who doesn't seem to belong to any county or to intimacy with either gender but has a deep appreciation of the world he lives in. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Amazon Customer