An Art Historical Interlude

Inspector Panda’s mysterious client, Babette de Panda, is weaving a tale about an alleged inheritance from her great-great-great-great-great-great grandmama. The Art Historical Division at The Institute for Contemporary Panda Satire has recently uncovered documents that support her claim that pandas emigrated to France in the late 1880’s, and posed for many of the artists of that period.

Portait of the mysterious "Madame 'P' "

Portait of the mysterious “Madame ‘P’ “

Portrait of Madame ‘P’

By John Singer Sargent

In the late 19th century, Japanese prints were not the only novelty from the Far East to create a stir in the London and Paris Art scenes. The recent discovery of pandas by westerners had artists scrambling to find pandas to model for paintings.

James McNeill Whistler employed one very popular model for his painting, Arrangement in Black, White, and Gray, as did several other artists, including John Singer Sargent.

Sargent did a number of preliminary studies for his famous portrait of Madame Pierre Gautreau, also known as Madame X. One of these less well-known minor studies portrayed one of Sargent’s favorite models, known only as Madame ‘P’. 

November 8th, 1883:
Madame Gautreau has taken leave of Paris for a month, so I am not able to continue working on her portrait. I have completed several studies, but I need her presence in order to work on the final commission. I am most vexed.

 November 10th, 1883:
Great fortune! One of my favorite models has just finished sitting for that horse’s ass, Jimmy W. I am exceedingly fond of Madame ‘P’, as she likes to be known. She has only recently come to Paris and I have done my best to make her “most welcome.”

 November 12th, 1883:
My study of Madame ‘P’ is going well. I hope to be able to complete a life size portrait of her for the next Salon Exhibition. There is a slight problem, in that she requires many naps throughout the day and has a prodigious appetite. She is the most amazing woman, able to crack large stalks of bamboo with only her teeth!

 November 26th, 1883:
That rascal Jimmy W. has unveiled his portrait of Madame ‘P’, calling it Arrangement in Black, White, and Gray, and has done so before I have been able to finish my portrait. I am most vexed. Madame ‘P’ came round the studio and was extremely apologetic, so what could I do but forgive her? 

 

"Arrangement in Black, White, and Gray" by James A. McNeil Whistler

“Arrangement in Black, White, and Gray” by James A. McNeil Whistler

December 18th, 1883:
Madame Gautreau has returned at last, but we had a terrible row over the state of her dress, which I had allowed Madame ‘P’ to wear during her sittings. I thought she looked quite the Parisian sophisticate in it. I had no idea Madame ‘P’s “personal habits” left so much to be desired.

The fragment of the diary ends here, but I believe that this does lend some credence to Babette’s claim that her great-great…um, whatever, grandmama did model for a number of the impressionists.

Hope you have a Fabulous Furry Friday, and the rest of the weekend as well.

Be the Bear,
Bob T. Panda

5 thoughts on “An Art Historical Interlude

  1. Vicky Vladic

    I was going to say November 12th, 1883 – best diary entry ever! But then I saw the December 18th one!!
    Thank you so much for sharing your brilliance and wit with us. I’ve started the day with a laugh and and am still smiling 🙂

    Reply
  2. Ann Feldman

    Ha! Jimmy W! Love the comment about Madame P’s um, “personal habits”. Keep it up. These get funnier all the time.

    Reply

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