Portrait of Madam X
In 2013 I had the privilege of seeing this elegant masterpiece at the MET Museum in New York City. It's beauty and story made such an impression on me, that I grabbed a postcard on my way out. Now coffee stained and pinned to my fridge, I look at it often.
Sargent hoped to enhance his reputation by painting and exhibiting her portrait. Working without a commission but with his sitter’s complicity, he emphasized her daring personal style, showing the right strap of her gown slipping from her shoulder. At the Salon of 1884, the portrait received more ridicule than praise. Sargent repainted the shoulder strap and kept the work for over thirty years. When, eventually, he sold it to the Metropolitan, he commented, “I suppose it is the best thing I have done,” but asked that the Museum disguise the sitter’s name. - Excerpt Metmuseum.org.
It really is amazing how societies perceptions of respectability and fashion have changed with time.