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 Virginie Amelie “Mimi” <I>Avegno</I> Gautreau

Virginie Amelie “Mimi” Avegno Gautreau

New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, USA
Death 25 Jul 1915 (aged 56)
Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France
Burial Saint-Malo, Departement d'Ille-et-Vilaine, Bretagne, France
Plot Gautreau family crypt
Memorial ID 38977354 · View Source
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Artistic Folk Figure. A celebrated beauty of 19th Century Paris, she is remembered as the subject of John Singer Sargent's controversial "Portrait of Madame X". The child of a wealthy Creole family, she was raised initially in New Orleans but with her Confederate officer father having been killed at the April 1862 Battle of Shiloh, Virginie, sometimes referred to as "Amelie", moved to Paris with her mother at the age of eight. Soon she was much in demand by Parisian society and was known to color her hair and use make-up from a young age. Marriage to banker Pierre Gautreau did not inhibit her enjoyment of male company; the multiple marital infidelities caused no scandal in the societal milieu of the time, though John Singer Sargent's portrait certainly did. Posed in the artist's Paris studio between 1883 and 1884, the seven-foot tall piece was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1884 to a loud and immediate outcry. Sargent had painted Virginie with one strap of her gown pulled off the shoulder, a depiction which audiences of the day viewed as an overt sexual invitation, a somewhat curious reaction in a place where she could have walked down a public street naked without attracting undue notice. The resulting scandal ruined the painter's chances of a career in France and left the model shunned; Sargent was thereafter to live and work in London while Virginie largely withdrew from society, though several other noted artists, including Gustave Courtois and Antonio de la Gandara, were to paint her. Sargent went on to a long and distinguished career and is represented in every major art museum on Earth; at some point he painted the strap back onto Madame X's shoulder and today she has an honored place at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, to which he sold her in 1916, while an unfinished version, with the strap down, is in London's Tate Gallery. The full story is told in Deborah Davis' 2003 "Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X" and dramatized in Gioia Dilberto's novel "I Am Madame X" (2003). Several noted beauties, including Nicole Kidman, have posed for photographs evocative of the once-salacious painting. At her death, Virginie was separated from her husband but was nevertheless buried in his family's tomb.

Bio by: Bob Hufford

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bob Hufford
  • Added: 2 Jul 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 38977354
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Virginie Amelie “Mimi” Avegno Gautreau (29 Jan 1859–25 Jul 1915), Find A Grave Memorial no. 38977354, citing Chateau des Chenes, Saint-Malo, Departement d'Ille-et-Vilaine, Bretagne, France ; Maintained by Find A Grave .