||Madame X was Sargents most controversial
work at the time of its first showing. Critics were aghast at the vanity
of its subject and stunned at the brazen presentation. The curators of
this exhibit display a delicious sense of humor by hanging these two side
by side. Some suggest that they were lovers. They deserve each other.
Madame X was not a commissioned portrait and Virginie Gautreau, its subject and a "professional beauty", was as outraged by it as were the French critics. Although painted in 1883 it remained unsold until it was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1916. It remains a virtuoso display of technique, both for its audaciously sexual pose and the luminosity of the skin. Originally the right shoulder strap was shown as fallen off. This caused such outrage that Sargent amended the work. I wish he had not.
Dr. Pozzi is an exuberant study in red and conceit. I was sure that the good doctor- a gynecologist no less - and a renowned lover and male coquette, would sprout horns. If Pozzi was not offended by Sargents visual editorializing then he was even more vain then he appears.