A fascinating account of the woman who posed for John Singer Sargent's most famous portrait, Portrait of Madam X. Virginie Avegno was born on her grandmother's plantation outside of New Orleans and then moved with her mother and sister to Paris to escaspe the Civil War - where she became a renowned beauty - the talk of the town. A great read based on historical fact.
I'd looked forward to reading this for a long time, but it left me rather flat. Too many boring details about her younger life and not enough about her notoriety as the Madam X of Sagent's painting. The painting itself is far superior to the book about it!
Excellent novel based on the life of a young, beautiful Creole from a wealthy family who made waves in French society during and after the American Civil War. Virginie posed for an important and scanalous painting (see cover) by Jean Singer Sargeant and most of her life is shaped by the scandal that erupted.
Also read Strapless (non-fiction) for the story of the painter and his most famous subject.
I Am Madame X by Gioia Diliberto revolves around the life of Virginie Gautreau, the woman who posed for John Singer Sargent's infamous painting, Madame X. To the current-day eye the portrait is of an elegant woman wearing a beautiful, sleek black dress. The waist is small and defined. The deep V-neckline, almost modest for today, revealed a lot of skin in the 1800s. But more shockingly was the fact that one strap was dangling off her shoulder in a come-hither attitude. Gasp. That "slutty" picture ended up causing a lot of strife. Later, a repentant Singer Sargent moved away from his scandal in Paris and the strap was repainted more respectably on her shoulder.
This novel, however, doesn't focus on that painting; it is centered on the life of the woman in the painting. Virginie Gautreau moved from a Louisiana plantation with her mother and sister to Paris in the 1800s. While the Civil War raged at home, Virginie took on the life of a Parisian socialite. She was a desperate housewife of her day with style and class demanded of a stricter set of social boundaries. She did not always adhere to those restrictions, though, and did not escape gossip anymore than a modern-day party girl. I really liked this book. I loved strolling with Virginie in Paris during the time of the Belle Epoque. I was lured by the elegance and grandness of the times. Mostly I was interested in the life Virginie carved out for herself. One day I hope to make a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the portrait. And when I do, I will smile, because I feel I know this woman. I know her secrets, her ambitions, and struggles. This isn't just another beautiful painting; it's Virginie.
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A very lively read, embroidering on the few know facts about the life of Virgine Gautreau, the subject of John Singer Sargent's famous portrait "Madame X." Spans life on a Louisiana plantation pre-Civil war through Parisian society of the 1860s through 1880s. Very engaging, with many insights into the artistic process. If you admire the art of Sargent, this book real treat. It transported me from my seat on the commuter bus to another time and place.
Entertaining, quick read. Not much about the relationship with Sargent until the last third, so if you're an art history afficionado, it's a bit light.