Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Rebecca's (Ladies' Historic Tea Society) recent post on New Orleans,
brought to mind Virginie Amelie Avegno Gautreau, the striking French
Creole woman, who posed for John Singer Sargent's voluptuous
Madame X painting. She was a celebrated beauty and Paris' most
famous "it girl" of her day, but most people are unaware that her roots
go back to New Orleans. Deborah Davis' fascinating book, Strapless:
John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X, is the true story of
Gautreau. A few years ago, when I was totally enthralled with this
book, my Auntie Dee gave me a print of Madame X, for my birthday,
which I framed and now hangs in the upstairs hallway of the manor.
Thanks to my refreshed interest New Orleans, I dug up this book
and am going to read it again. I highly recommend this one. It's
brimming with history and art, two of my favorite things, among
bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, of course!
Hey, I just noticed that this is my 100th post! Posts fly when you are
having fun!


  1. Sounds like a good one. I think I shall hunt this one down.

  2. Mmmmm, yes, I remember you recommended this one on my blog some time ago. It's still on the shopping list for my next mass book purchase. :)

  3. I'll be in New Orleans on Monday! Hopefully I'll have a little time to take in some creole, jazz and southern beauty!

  4. What a lovely painting Willow...I find the woman's name fascinating first of all, and she was quite beautiful. I've found it interesting that you, Rebecca and I, all have paintings of women on our walls. I'll have to do a post one day on mine. Now this is the type of book I know I would enjoy...so many wonderful books...so few hours in the day..Thank you for such a lovely post...

  5. Thanks for visiting and your lovely comments.
    Just love that picture of the Manor on your sidebar and would love to take a peep inside.
    The Saturday morning breakfast looks divine but in England we would have the 'sweet' bit on a side plate to eat afterwards. We don't do sweet and savoury together.

  6. You always have such interesting posts, WIllow. I was thrilled when I actually was able to see this at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's a huge painting.

  7. Willow, I will dig in my files today for a paper from a former fellow Art History student for you to read on this very subject. It was so fascinating.... And oh,what a scandalous story behind Madame X!

  8. Happy 100!!!!

    I have heard of the painting. Didn't it cause quite a stir back in the day?

  9. Congratulations on 100 posts, Willow! Your blog is so well worth reading! I learn something new every time, which I love.

    I adore New Orleans and Louisiana! Have you been there since the devastation of Katrina? The people have suffered so much.

    This book very interesting -- I'll add it to my growing list.

  10. Yes, they thought it was brazen and ugly. Sargent ended up painting another strap on her gown to try and remedy the situation.

  11. Well, I learn something new everyday and I'm into art history and all that! It sounds like i'd relish the book too. Now, not sure from this painting if the IT girl of then (love that comparison) would fit into that category today. Can't really tell if she's that attractive or not, physically anyway.

  12. Oh, and congrats on your 100th post! I know lots of us are enjoying your entries. Keep it up.

  13. Rebecca, I would love to read that paper!

    Mmm, I was thinking that same thing today. If you put a modern blonde hairstyle on her, she would look very much, I think, like Paris Hilton.

  14. I loved this book. I am glad you have her framed at your manor. She was endlessly fascinating.

  15. Congrats on 100 posts!! Sounds good! Have a great one!

    kari & kijsa

  16. 100 wonderful posts. I look forward to all the ones to come. Thank you for sharing your charming, empathetic, intelligent, stylish, witty self! :)

  17. Whoa...I looked at that and thought she was about to go "skinny". (I liked your comment on my blog about the armor of God. A friend of mine teased me about that same thing after seeing my clothes hung out on the sage brush)

  18. Willow, I thought I left a comment here last night...or did I just dream that?

  19. Hi there, Lavinia...no I haven't heard from you in a few days.

    (it was on-ly a dream...sung in the Laura song tune)

  20. I don't know what went wrong then...anyway, my comment was about how I had admired this painting for a long time, and that I remember reading something about the controversy it caused when first revealed...and I seem to recall something about the hands...they were too large, or disproportionate, or something like that.

    I have always marvelled at that dress...it would be stylish even today.

  21. I was always fascinated with the story of how her one strap was such a scandal. It seems so funny to think Sargent had to cave and put in the second strap, doesn't it? I saw this book and almost bought it once and now you've convinced me I should. Sounds like a good read.

  22. a fascinating man i once knew and adored referred to this type of garment as a "gownless evening strap"

  23. Willow, I'm still looking for the paper. I know I saved it to one of my files...But where, is the real question!...


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)