John Singer Sargent
1883-1884, Oil on canvas
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Born as Virginie Avegno (1859-1915), Madame Pierre Gautreau was an American from New Orleans brought to Paris by her French mother following the death of Virginie's father. She married Banker Pierre Gautreau and entered into a long career as a celebrity of Parisian high society.
Sargent specifically requested Gautreau to model for him, and after being accepted he took nearly a year of on-and-off work to complete the image. At the Salon exhibit of 1884, the image in its original state (shoulder strap slipped down) caused a great deal of negative comment, such that Sargent, who kept the painting hanging in his studio for over twenty-years, painted out the offending strap.
(Below) Original composition as exhibited at the French Salon of 1884
For comparison: Portrait of Gautreu by Gustave Courtois (below)