by Deborah Davis


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781585423361
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/03/2004
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 130,689
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 - 14 Years

About the Author

Deborah Davis is the author of Party of the Century: The Fabulous Story of Truman Capote and his Black and White Ball (Wiley, April 2006), and Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X (Tarcher/Putnam, 2003). Her most recent book is The Secret Lives Of Frames: One Hundred Years of Art and Artistry (Filapacchi, 2007).

Table of Contents

La Louisiane7
City of Light25
A Professional Beauty47
The Pupil61
A Smashing Start75
Brilliant Creatures99
Heat and Light111
His Masterpiece123
The Flying Dutchman137
Finishing Touches147
Dancing on a Volcano155
Le Scandale177
Calculated Moves187
A Woman of a Certain Age203
A Man of Prodigious Talent219
Twilight of the Gods237

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From the Publisher

"A stunner about a stunner." —The Philadelphia Inquirer

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Strapless 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely fascinating to read how the lives of several big personality people interweaved in that era!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This history is a wonderful recount of social mores,in addition to being an enticing account of the background behind John Singer Sargent's chef-d'œuvre. Truly a font for book-club discussion, we can marvel over life as it was, while questioning our progress in modern times.
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MissPrint More than 1 year ago
According to surrounding lore, Sargent initially painted "Madame X" with the right strap of her black gown slipping off of her shoulder.When the painting debuted at the 1884 Salon in Paris ( the place to have a painting displayed at the time and a good signifier of current or future artistic success) it created an uproar, so scandalous was the pose. Indeed, facing numerous charges of the painting's indecency, Sargent eventually repainted the strap sitting firmly, and properly, on Madame's shoulder. Pursuing my art history minor in New York City I had the amazing opportunity to see "Madame X" in person at the Metropolitan Museum. The painting has always had a special place in my heart for, if nothing else, the drama associated with its debut. So I was very pleased when a copy of Deborah Davis' book Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X (2004) fell into my lap. Part historical research, part biography, part social commentary, part feminist text, Deborah Davis handles a lot of material in a relatively small volume (320 pages with font of average size and relevant pictures included). One of the reasons Davis decided to research this particular painting and its subject is because so little information remains about Virginie Amelie Gautreau, her life, or how Sargent came to paint her scandalous portrait. While "Madame X" eventually catapulted Sargent into the artistic canon and toward immortality, the portrait likely led to Gautreau's ruin and her obscurity. In her book, Davis tries to set the record straight, portraying Gautreau as the powerful, savvy woman she was before a bare shoulder changed her social standing forever. My library system catalogs this book as a biography of John Singer Sargent, which for a lot of reasons is the logical choice. However, really, most of the book is spent looking at the life of Sargent's subject and patron: Madame Gautreau. The book traces Gautreau's family history, her migration from New Orleans to Paris (where she became a quasi-celebrity along the lines of Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton virtually overnight at the tender age of twenty-three), and perhaps most interestingly just how much work went into being a beautiful woman in Paris in the 1880s. No details escapes Davis' examination as she looks at the clothing, finances, indeed the very persona Gautreau had to cultivate to live the decadent lifestyle she became accustomed to. The strong point in Strapless is when Davis sticks to such facts: how Gautreau lived, why Sargent would want to paint her, what happened at the Salon when "Madame X" debuted. Davis also expertly outlines the tenuous, and often stressful, patron-artisan relationships that Sargent and artists like him had to cultivate in order to eke out a living with their brush. The momentum flags when Davis veers into the hypothetical wondering if Sargent might have been in love with Gautreau, torn between her and one of his young proteges. While the theory is interesting, it does remain a theory very akin to the conspiracy theories so often found in research on the Titanic. That aside, Strapless is a remarkably well-done book. The thorough research shows through without dulling the writing. Davis' text is conversational and very accessible--more so, it must be said, than many writings found in the field of art history. An excellent book on art history for enthusiasts and art historians alike.
Black_Cat_Lover More than 1 year ago
I'm taking a class in American Art History so this was an interesting adjunct to my studies. The book has an easy-to-read style and the story is fascinating. About the collision of two people: the artist and the sitter and how their lives were impacted and diverged by the portrait. And you don't have to be an art history aficionado to enjoy it.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I've long been a fan of John Singer Sargent and wanted to know more about him. Stanley Olsen's 'JSS- His Portrait' is atrocious - dry and boring as all heck - but Davis' book was fantastic. First time author? Can't wait for more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm not a lover of non-fiction, but Strapless reads like a novel -- better than a novel because it is all true. It was so interesting to learn the details of life in Paris and to get acquainted with Sargent's amazing painting.