Thursday, May 27, 2021

Goya’s Maja

From Of Art and Wine:

This painting seems rather tame for our day, though the look in the model’s eye has a bit of “come hither” to it. Many art historians propose Manuel de Godoy, 18th century Spain’s Prime Minister for King Charles IV, as the man who commissioned this work of his then mistress, Pepita Tudó. Given the dates of the work and the face of the woman, though not exactly Pepita but passable, that assumption seems to fit. However, there has always been a bit of a problem sustaining that theory completely when comparing this later work with the original maja, The Naked Maja, done between 1797-1800. For a good view of The Naked Maja, I shall send you to the Museo del Prado web page on that painting

While the face is the same and again not completely identifiable, the body of the naked version is smaller. The pose is relatively the same, but of course, the frontal nudity plus the direct gaze of the model were indeed shocking for that time. Frontal nudity was for those loose-living Venetians (Titian’s Venus of Urbino, 1534) and even still caused pearl clutching in 1863 when Manet’s Olympia was shown. Here is where the controversy lies. The heads of the majas seem to have been refashioned. Some say it was because Godoy married another woman, so wanted to hide the face of his former mistress. However, since the naked version was painted earlier, perhaps in 1797 during Goya’s stay at the estate of the Duchess of Alba, it is also speculated that the duchess had the face changed to conceal her identity. Years later in 1815, the Spanish Inquisition wanted to get to the bottom of the source of these naughty commissions, so Goya was called before the Inquisitors to tell all. However, his reply is unknown. (Read more.)


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