Madame X, 1884
Oil on canvas, 92.5 x 43.25 inches [234.95 x 109.855 cm]
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Manhattan
Sargent chose this pose for Madame X Gautreau carefully: her body boldly facing forward while her head is turned in profile. A profile by its very nature is both assertion and retreat--half of one's face is hidden while at the same time, the part that shows can seem more defined than full face. In placing her head in profile, Sargent has technically put together the very opposites that have troubled many women--including the subject for this painting. The profile of a person is the more intellectual part because the angle seems to stand more for thought. So, in this painting flesh and thought are together.