Friday, September 30, 2016

Soodabeh Saeidnia writes


I hang my tired shoes 
on a power line 
with the height of tireless hopes 
Not to fall down again 
Not to be worn by a naughty kid, 
whose life-time running has not quenched her
playing thirst

Madame Gautreau Drinking a Toast -- John Singer Sargent


  1. Virginie Avegno was an American expatriate who married Pierre Gautreau, a French banker, and was notorious for her beauty and infidelities. She was the representation of the “parisienne,” a new type of sophisticated Frenchwoman; she was also described as a "professional beauty," the English term for a woman who used her personal skills or appearance to advance to elite status. The American painter Edward Simmons claimed that he "could not stop stalking her as one does a deer." John Singer Sargeant was also professionally interested in doing her, anticipating that a portrait of her would attract a lot of attention if he could exhibit it at the Paris Salon and thus increase his own portrait commissions. He wrote to a friend, "I have a great desire to paint her portrait and have reason to think she would allow it and is waiting for someone to propose this homage to her beauty. If you are 'bien avec elle' and will see her in Paris, you might tell her I am a man of prodigious talent." Although she had refused numerous requests from other artists, she accepted Sargent's offer, but they made little progress during the winter of 1883, since she had many social engagements and was not inclined to the discipline of sitting for a portrait. At her suggestion, Sargent spent the summer at Les Chênes, her estate in Brittany, where he did a series of preparatory works in pencil, watercolors, and oils, though the situation did not much improve. Sargent complained of "the unpaintable beauty and hopeless laziness of Madame Gautreau," but executed about 30 drawings in different poses and an oil sketch, “Madame Gautreau Drinking a Toast,”which he gave to her mother. But the finished “Portrait de Mme ***” was exhibited at the 1884 Salon and did not receive the attention either painter or sitter desired. Sargent showed a woman posing in a black satin dress with jeweled straps, a dress that revealed and hid at the same time, the pale flesh tone of the subject contrasting against a dark colored dress and background. The critics condemned it for scandalously bad taste, especially because one strap of her gown had fallen down he right shoulder; a reviewer in “Le Figaro,” leered, "One more struggle and the lady will be free." Due to the controversy, the sitter’s mother asked Sargent to withdraw the painting from the 1884 Salon, but he refused, saying he had painted her "exactly as she was dressed, that nothing could be said of the canvas worse than had been said in print of her appearance." However, he repainted the shoulder strap to raise it up and make it look more securely fastened and changed the title to “Madame X.”Due to its reception, Sargent abandoned his hopes for a promionent career in Paris and moved to London permanently. (Ironically, seven years later Gustave Courtois painted her again, her face once more in profile, wearing the same style of dress but showing a bit more skin, with the strap of her dress still hanging off her shoulder. The portrait was well received by the French public.) Sargent finally sold it “Madame X” to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1916, claiming it was "the best thing I have ever done."

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