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I Am Madame X:
Mystery is often more alluring than knowledge. A fictional memoir of the legendary American-born beauty Virginie Gautreau, the subject of John Singer Sargent's famous 1884 painting, Portrait of Madame X, Gioia Diliberto's I Am Madame X risks dashing cold water on one of the loveliest and most persistent mysteries in Western art history: what the model is thinking. Following in the footsteps of Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring, though with much more historical documentation at her disposal, Diliberto gives voice to a woman whose memory rests on this single painting. A gem of Belle Époque Paris, Virginie Gautreau had fled Louisiana with her mother during the Civil War. Married at a young age to a French banker, she attracted every kind of attention with her unusual beauty and her daring fashion sense. Her affairs were widely whispered about. Diliberto presents a vivid picture of Virginie's life and times, and brings to life one model's troubled but stimulating relationship with the artist who immortalized her. --Regina Marler [via]