The subject of John Singer Sargent''s most famous painting was
twenty-three-year-old New Orleans Creole Virginie Gautreau, who
moved to Paris and quickly became the "it girl" of her day. A
relative unknown at the time, Sargent won the commission to paint
her; the two must have recognized in each other a like-minded
hunger for fame.
Unveiled at the 1884 Paris Salon, Gautreau''s portrait generated
the attention she craved-but it led to infamy rather than stardom.
Sargent had painted one strap of Gautreau''s dress dangling from
her shoulder, suggesting either the prelude to or the aftermath of
sex. Her reputation irreparably damaged, Gautreau retired from
public life, destroying all the mirrors in her home.
Drawing on documents from private collections and other previously
unexamined materials, and featuring a cast of characters including
Oscar Wilde and Richard Wagner, Strapless is a tale of art and
celebrity, obsession and betrayal.