Our latest addition to the Muse series, Madame X [After Sargent] is based upon John Singer Sargent’s Portrait of Madame X. The beauty and grandeur of the original painting provided us a lot of inspiration for our reinterpreted photograph. Yet it was the history and taboo associated with Sargent’s work that gave us much direction.
For Parisians in the Victorian era, Sargent’s display of bare skin proved scandalous for both model and artist. Mindful of that history, we borrow costume elements from the gay Leatherman’s subculture, and mash it up with our own gender twist. The harness, traditionally in leather, is re-imagined in black silk taffeta and chandelier crystal covered snaps. Originally leather chaps, they now shimmer in black sequin fabric accompanied by a matching dress train and chandelier crystal covered snaps.
Beyond the costume and overall reinvention, what ultimately drew us to reinterpret Sargent’s painting was two-fold. We were immediately attracted to the simultaneous strength, grace and femininity in the model’s pose. And secondarily, we knew it was those precise elements that would give us a hybrid gender expression that felt authentic.
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