This unfinished portrait of Madame Gautreau was acquired by a special arrangement whereby Sir J.

Duveen acquired the work and presented it to the nation otherwise it would have been sold to the United States. Duveen was a dealer who frequently sold to American collections but was also a great supporter of the Art Fund. Though the sitter is unidentified, the public was in no doubt that it was Virginie Amélie Gautreau a young Parisian socialite born in Louisiana. This portrait created a scandal through its provocative pose and décolletage and the sitter's reputation for flouting conventional values. Sargent became obsessed with her and painted her - in a style much indebted to Velázquez and Manet - without commission.

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