Francisco de Goya

The Nude Maja (La maja desnuda)

Serie
The Nude Maja (La maja desnuda)
Datos Generales
Cronología
1795 - 1800
Ubicación
The Prado National Museum. Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Dimensiones
98 x 191 cm
Técnica y soporte
Oil on canvas
Reconocimiento de la autoría de Goya
Documented work
Titular
El Prado National Museum
Ficha: realización/revisión
03 Feb 2010 / 18 Oct 2019
Inventario
379 (P00742)
Historia

This work formed part of Manuel Godoy's art collection. Following the Aranjuez uprising of 1808 and the abdication of King Charles IV that same year, the work was seized, along with other items, by order of Ferdinand VII. Between 1808 and 1813 it was stored, together with The Clothed Maja, at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando and in 1813 it was confiscated by the Inquisition. It was kept at the Madrid academy from 1836 until 1901, when it entered the collection of the Prado Museum, being mentioned in the museum's catalogue for the first time in 1910.

Análisis artístico

The first reference we have to The Nude Maja dates back to 1800, when it is mentioned as being in Manuel Godoy's palace, where it was hung above a doorway. No mention is made of The Clothed Maja, however, suggesting that at that time it had not yet been painted. In 1808 the present work appears once more in the inventory that Fréderic Quilliet, an agent of Joseph Bonaparte, made of Godoy's estate.

The Nude Maja is paired with The Clothed Maja, since the two works were probably commissioned by Manuel Godoy, the prime minister of King Charles IV. This would not have been the first painting of a female nude in Godoy's collection. His private study also contained The Toilet of Venus (La Venus del Espejo) (1647-1651, National Gallery, London) by Velázquez, and a copy of another Venus by Titian.

The identity of the woman posing for Goya in this painting remains a mystery although it has been suggested that it could be either the Duchess of Alba or alternatively Pepita Tudó, Godoy's lover from 1797 onwards.

The theme of the female nude has few precedents in the history of Spanish art, perhaps because it was considered to be an obscene subject matter. One only has to consider that, whilst in the academies of the period it was relatively common to copy from nude male models, the nude female body was instead studied by looking at classical sculpture or existing paintings, and never from life.

This vision of the female anatomy that Goya depicts so freely in The Nude Maja resulted in the painter being investigated by the Inquisition. On 16 March 1815, the Secret Chamber of the Inquisition of Madrid ordered, in reference to the two majas, that "said Goya be brought before this tribunal so that he might recognize them and declare whether they are his work, for what reason he made them, by commission for whom, and what ends were intended". Unfortunately we do not know what happened in the course of this process nor do we have any evidence of the statements that Goya made, which would have served to shed some light on the episode.

The woman, entirely naked, is shown in the same position as in The Clothed Maja, reclining on a green divan covered by a white bedspread and pillows. According to Xavier de Salas, the two majas were not painted at the same time, owing, in part at least, to the technical differences between the two works. In his opinion, The Clothed Maja was painted after the nude. In reality, the explanation for these technical differences stems from the need Goya felt to tackle these two works according to different criteria. So as to enjoy rendering the fabrics in The Clothed Maja, the painter used looser, freer brushstrokes to better capture the different qualities of the materials that cover the woman's body. However, the anatomical representation of The Nude Maja resulted in the adoption of a more academic vision for the work, in which draughtsmanship took on greater importance.

When making this painting, Goya may have referred to works such as Velázquez's The Toilet of Venus, Titian's The Venus of Urbino (1538, Uffizi Gallery, Florence) or Venus with the Organist, by the same artist (Ca. 1550, Prado Museum, Madrid). He may even have seen Female Nude seen from Behind (Ca. 1739, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica Palazzo Barberini, Rome) by Pierre-Hubert Subleyras (Saint-Gilles-du-Gard, 1699-Rome, 1749).

Exposiciones
  • Goya 1900
    Ministerio de Instrucción Pública and Bellas Artes
    Madrid
    1900
    consultant editors Aureliano de Beruete, Alejandro Ferrant, Marqués de Pidal and Ricardo Velázquez. May 1900
  • Les chefs-d’œuvre du Musée du Prado
    Musée d’Art et d’Histoire
    Geneva
    1939
    consultant editors Fernando Álvarez de Sotomayor y Pedro Muguruza Otaño. From June to September 1939
  • Goya and his times
    The Royal Academy of Arts
    London
    1963
    cat. 66
  • El arte de Goya
    Museo de Arte Occidental de Tokio
    Tokyo
    1971
    from 16th 1971 to January 23th 1972. Exhibited also at the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, January 29th to March 15th 1972.
  • Goya
    Palacio de Pedralbes
    Barcelona
    1977
    from April 12th to June 30th 1977
  • De El Greco a Goya
    Palacio de Bellas Artes
    Mexico D.F.
    1978
    November-December 1978
  • Goya in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art
    New York
    1995
    consultant editors Colta Ives and Susan Alyson Stein. From September 12th to December 31st 1995
  • Realidad e imagen. Goya 1746 – 1828
    Museo de Zaragoza
    Zaragoza
    1996
    consultant editor Federico Torralba Soriano. From October 3th to December 1st 1996
  • Goya. 250 Aniversario
    Museo Nacional del Prado
    Madrid
    1996
    consultant editor Juan J. Luna. From March 29th to June 2nd 1996
  • Goya en tiempos de guerra
    Museo Nacional del Prado
    Madrid
    2008
    consultant editor Manuela B. Mena Marqués, from April 14th to July 13th 2008
Bibliografía
  • L'œuvre peint de Goya. 4 vols
    Xavier Desparmet Fitz-Gerald
    p.107, cat. 389
    1928-1950
  • Vie et ouvre de Francisco de Goya
    Juliet Wilson and Pierre Gassier
    p. 194, cat. 743
    1970
    Office du livre
  • Goya, 1746 – 1828. Biografía, estudio analítico y catálogo de sus pinturas, 4 vols.
    José Gudiol
    vol. I, p. 339, cat. 539
    1970
    Polígrafa
  • Goya
    Xavier Salas
    pp. 76, 77, 82, 83 (il.), 188 cat. 340
    1974
    Carroggio S.A. de Ediciones
  • Francisco de Goya, 4 vols.
    José Camón Aznar
    vol. II, pp. 128 y 129
    1980-1982
    Caja de Ahorros de Zaragoza, Aragón y Rioja
  • The companion of Velázquez and a source for Goya's Naked Maja
    Duncan Bull and Enriqueta Harris
    pp. 643-654
    nº 128
    1986
    The Burlington Magazine
  • Goya. 250 Aniversario
    Juan J. (comisario) Luna
    p. 371.
    1996
    Museo del Prado
  • Der Künstler als Kuppler: Goyas nackte und bekleidete Maja en Herding, K.: Aufklärung anstelle von Andacht: kulturwissenschaftliche Dimensionen bildender Kunst
    Ivan Nagel
    pp. 27-33
    1997
    Lang
  • Goya. Die Kunst der Freiheit
    Jörg Traeger
    pp. 69-72, il. 20
    2000
    Verlag C. H. Beck
  • Los mundos de Goya (1746-1828)
    Joan Sureda Pons
    pp. 171-173, ils. 104, 105
    2008
    Lunwerg
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