Compare the Pair #21 | Goya’s Empress in New Clothes

Son of a Basque, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes was born on March 30, 1746 in Fuendetodos, Aragón, Spain. Goya is known as a Spanish romantic painter and print-maker and regarded as the last of the Old Masters and the first of The Moderns. During his career, he became court painter to the Spanish Crown after studying under Anton Raphael Mengs, a painter who was popular with Spanish royalty.

  • Goya also studied under Francisco Bayeu y Subías and in 1773, he married Bayeu’s sister, Josefa. Through his friendship with Bayeu, Goya obtained work at the Royal Tapestry Factory, which brought his artistic talents to the attention of the Spanish monarchs who later employed him to the royal court.

Goya painted the Spanish royal family, including the portraits of Charles IV of Spain and  Ferdinand VII. His work extended from merry festivals for tapestries and draft cartoons, to scenes of war and human debasement. This evolution reflects the darkening of Goya’s temper. Modern physicians suspect that the lead paint pigments poisoned him and caused his deafness after 1792. Near the end of his life, Goya became reclusive and produced frightening and obscure paintings of insanity, madness and fantasy.

  • Goya left Spain in May 1824 for Bordeaux and then Paris. He travelled back to Spain in 1826, but returned to Bordeaux, where he died of a stroke on 16 April 1828, at the age of 82. Although he was buried in Bordeaux; his remains were later transferred to the Royal Chapel of St. Anthony of La Florida, in Madrid in 1919.

Two of Goya’s best known paintings are The Nude Maja (La maja desnuda 1797-1800) and The Clothed Maja (La maja vestida 1800-1805). They depict the same woman in the same pose, naked and clothed, respectively. The paintings were never publicly exhibited during Goya’s lifetime; as the Catholic Church had fiercely enforced a ban on the creation and display of artistic nudes.

The more controversial of the two is The Naked Maja and considered “the first totally profane life-size female nude in Western art“. By the standards of 1800, the Naked Maja was pornographic. Not only was she naked and sprawled out on a couch, but even more shocking; Goya painted the woman’s pubic hair. As a consequence, the Inquisition tribunal stripped Goya of his position and income as court painter to Charles IV.

  • The identity of the Maja’s is uncertain. The most popularly cited models are the Duchess of Alba, with whom Goya was sometimes thought to have had an affair; and Pepita Tudó, (Josefa de Tudó y Catalán, 1st Countess of Castillo Fiel), mistress of Manuel de Godoy, Prince of La Paz and the Prime Minister of Spain. Both paintings were owned by Godoy. He commissioned several paintings from Goya including a female nude to join his collection of other nude paintings.

In 1808, all of Godoy’s property was seized by Ferdinand VII after his fall from power and exile, and in 1813, the Inquisition confiscated both works as ‘obscene’; returning them in 1836, to the Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando. The two works now sit side by side at the Museo del Prado, Madrid and have done so since 1901.

  • Discover more about Goya’s Maja paintings by seeking out a copy of the movie: The Naked Maja (1958) directed by Henry Koster. A film about the painter Francisco Goya and the Duchess of Alba; where Anthony Franciosa played Goya and Ava Gardner played The Duchess.

Clothes on? Clothes off?
Doesn’t matter
Become a Goya Voyeur

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Source: Spanish painting by Jacques Lassaigne. Skira Geneva, 1952
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