Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Madame X

Sometimes searching for one thing leads you down such a rabbit hole of other things. I was looking for some youtube clips of the soundtrack for Ragtime, the film based on the E.L. Doctorow book that features Evelyn Nesbit as a central charcter. Well, the search for Evelyn lead me to another infamous beauty of a slightly earlier time... a certain Virginie Gautreau, better known as Madame X.

This John Singer Sargent painting is striking, isn't it? It makes me wonder if this started the appeal of the little black dress. Certainly, I think fashion was leaning more toward bigger shapes and more yardage at the time it was painted in 1883. When Madame X was shown at the Paris Salon of 1884 it created a scandal due to the placement of one of the shoulder straps. Originally a strap was slipping off a shoulder and caused enough of a stir for Sargent to repaint the strap firmly on the subject's shoulder.

Some famous beauties portraying Madame X...

And the little video that I found on youtube...

If you're interested in reading a fictional telling of Virginie's story, I am Madame X was an entertaining read. The link is to the author's website who has provided a lot of fantastic background information.



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At February 3, 2010 at 2:53 PM , Blogger Bonjour Madame said...

I have a book called Creole Thrift by one of her decendants. Her family owns an old plantation in Louisiana that has been passed down even to this day. I'm fascinated by her and will definitely look into this book. Thanks!

At February 3, 2010 at 7:37 PM , Blogger Kristia said...

Ooh! I read the overview on Amazon... she's a famed New Orleans designer! Now I have a book to check out too! Thanks so much for the recommendation. I love New Orleans so much... the music, the food, the French Quarter, of course... it would be nice to have some reading to remind me of the place until I can get there for another visit!


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