I have written here (July 13 entry and earlier) about my theory, that many portrait painters seem far more interested in tapestry, furs, gloves, emeralds, silks than they do the wealthy, even the royal, sitter's ... face. And almost no-one gives us better satins than John Singer Sargent. Sargent does have his fabulous moments, when he attains a Velazquez-ian dizziness, as here in the 1882 "El Jaleo":
Yes, we see her skirt lit by lamps ... but it is not the only focus. We see the gesture, the arms, the guitars that seems to be waiting for Picasso to make them Cubist ... we see life. The painting asks us to move about inside of the frame. Our eyes do not become fixed on fabric. But then we look at a society portrait, here "Mrs. George Swinton" (nee Elizabeth "Elsie" Ebsworth) from 1897 and we see ... the Queen's skirt dilemma ... a beautiful problem, but still a problem:
Well might the Queen's skirt explode, in exasperation. (I mean that the fabrics, lovely as they are, are no substitute for a human face, and the Queen leaves in a huff). Who can compete?