Portrait of a Ladies’ Man: Dr Samuel-Jean Pozzi

The enigmatic subject of a fine portrait by John Singer Sargent, Dr Samuel-Jean Pozzi dazzled the women of Paris in the late 19th century, including Sarah Bernhardt, and earned himself the nickname ‘the love doctor’. But he was also a respected surgeon and gynaecologist, soldier and politician, artist and collector. Caroline de Costa and Francesca Miller illuminate the life of this Renaissance man.

For more than a century it was kept concealed from the public gaze, firstly standing on an easel in the subject’s home in the Place Vendôme in central Paris, later hung on the walls of an apartment on the Avenue d’Iéna. Then in 1990 it burst upon an admiring public in the gallery of the Armand Hammer Museum in Los Angeles: ‘Dr Pozzi Chez Lui’ – Dr Pozzi At Home. John Singer Sargent’s engaging portrait of 1881 shows a dark and handsome man in his mid-thirties, attired with casual elegance in a scarlet dressing-gown and frilled nightshirt, against a background of crimson drapes. 

Who, the public wanted to know, was this Doctor Pozzi?

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