In 1884, renowned painter John Singer Sargent unveiled his portrait of the notorious beauty Virginie Gautreau at the Paris Salon. Virginie's bold pose, provocative dress, and icy pale skin caused an immediate furore. Panned by the critics and abhorred by the public, the painting crippled Sargent's hopes of a career in Paris. He soon relocated to England, where he established himself as the favourite portrait painter of the wealthy. In this remarkable novel, Diliberto tells Virginie's story, drawing on the sketchy facts of her life to recreate her personality and the milieu of nineteenth century Paris. Born in New Orleans and raised on her grandmother's Creole plantation, Virginie fled to France with her mother and sister during the Civil War. After a troubled adolescence, she became a professional beauty and married a prominent French banker. Even before Sargent painted her portrait, Virginie's reputation for promiscuity and showy self-display made her the subject of Paris gossip.