Madame X or Portrait of Madame X is the informal title of a portrait painting by John Singer Sargent of a young socialite named Virgine Ameile Avegno Gautreau, wife of Pierre Gautreau. The model was an American expatriate who married a French banker, and became notorious in Parisian high society for her beauty and rumored infidelities. She wore lavender powder and prided herself on her appearance.
Immediately after meeting her, Sargent wrote to his friend del Castillo to find out if he could do anything to induce Madame Gautreau to sit for him. 'I have.' he wrote, '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 that I am a man of prodigious talent.'
When the painting first appeared at the Paris Salon under the title Portrait de Mme *** in 1884, people were shocked and scandalized; the attempt to preserve the subject's anonymity was unsuccessful, and the sitter's mother requested that Sargent withdraw the painting from the exhibition. Sargent 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". The Salon was in an uproar. Here was an occasion such as they had not had sinceLe D'jeuner sur l'Herbe, L'Olympia and theExhibition of Independents. In the original painting, the right dress strap dangling off her shoulder which could not be accepted for the high society of Paris.
Later, Sargent overpainted the shoulder strap to raise it up and make it look more securely fastened. He also changed the title, from the original Portrait de Mme ***, to Madame X — a name more assertive, dramatic and mysterious, and, by accenting the impersonal, giving the illusion of the woman archetype.
If the picture could not be withdrawn, the family might at least bide its time, wait till the Salon was closed, the picture delivered, and then by destroying, blot it as an unclean thing from the records of the family. Anticipating this, Sargent, before the exhibition was over, took it away himself. After remaining many years in his studio it now figures as one of the glories of the Metropolitan Museum in New York."
From Wikipedia and other art sites.
Please watch the video for the scandal [link]
Thanks to my dear friend Chris for the video