Requires Photography

Madame X’s Aura, after John Singer Sargent

Anna Von Mertens (American, born in 1973)


Height x width: 83 x 44 in. (210.8 x 111.8 cm) Mount (slat dimensions): 11.4 x 108 x 1.9 cm (4 1/2 x 42 1/2 x 3/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Hand-dyed, hand-stitched cotton

Not On View


Americas, Contemporary Art, Textiles and Fashion Arts


Fiber arts

Aura photography visualizes an individual’s electromagnetic field to measure emotional energy. Von Mertens references this practice in her unconventional portrait. Fabric is dyed in varying colors suggesting energy, while quilting outlines the form of an almost disappeared figure. Her subject is taken not from life, but rather from art history: John Singer Sargent’s famously mysterious “Madame X.” Von Mertens has created a portrait that is every bit as original as its antecedent, and also speaks to another kind of aura, defined by philosopher Walter Benjamin: the sense of awe we feel in the presence of a unique work of art.


From the artist to Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland, OR; 2012; sold by Elizabeth Leach Gallery to the MFA. (Accession Date: February 29, 2012)

Credit Line

The Living New England Artists Purchase Fund