Searching for Madame X | Pia de Jong

January 6, 2015 9:57 PM

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Madame X. In terms of our profiles, I'm told, I look like her. But I'm not so pleased with my profile, so it's with some trepidation I find myself looking for the famous portrait by John Singer Sargent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I walk through a room full of painted society ladies of the 19th century. Matrons of the Gilded Age, each one one more refined than the previous. Silk dresses adorned with pearls, lace and voile. Hairstyles bedecked with ribbons and bows. But these ornate and brocaded portraits do little or nothing for me.

Then suddenly I sense her presence nearby. Heads are turning around the gallery, all looking in one direction. "Now there was a woman!" F. Scott Fitzgerald would say. She is in a gilded frame, but she is so real that I take a step backward, as if overwhelmed by her perfume. She does not look at me, ...

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