Reality Check - Contemporary American Trompe L'Oeil Exhibition Catalogue
Madame X Desk Blotter, 2007
Oil on panel, 13½ x 19½ inches
General Purchase Fund, New Britain Museum of American Art, 2008
In this painting, Theise cleverly brings John Singer Sargent's famous portrait Madame X (1884, Metropolitan Museum of Art) into the 21st century, using the illusionistic conceit of a desk blotter as a contemporary re-interpretation of the classic rack-type trompe l'oeil painting.
New Britain Museum of America Art's remarks:
"In Madame X Desk Blotter, Theise includes a large photograph of the portrait of Madame X by John Singer Sargent. The subject of the painting, Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau, was a young Parisian socialite notorious for her beauty as well as her rumored infidelities. She was well known for wearing thick layers of makeup to make herself as pure and white as porcelain. Theise includes envelopes addressed to and from Sargent, Gautreau, himself, and even 'Madame X' herself. Highlighting the layers of identity and deception prevalent in the social life of the elite, this painting also subtly references the trickery necessary to create a work of trompe l'oeil art."