La maja desnuda
|Type||Oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||97 cm × 190 cm (38 in × 75 in)|
|Location||Museo del Prado, Madrid|
La maja desnuda (known in English as The Nude Maja or sometimes The Naked Maja) is an oil on canvas painting by the Spanish painter Francisco Goya (1746–1828), portraying a nude woman reclining on a bed of pillows. It was executed some time between 1797 and 1800, and is among the first clear depictions of female pubic hair in a large Western painting. The painting has been in the Museo del Prado in Madrid since 1910.
Goya created another painting of the same woman identically posed, but clothed, entitled La maja vestida (The Clothed Maja); also in the Prado, it is usually hung next to La maja desnuda. The identity of the model and why the paintings were created are still unknown. Both paintings were first recorded as belonging to the collection of Prime Minister Manuel de Godoy, Duke of Alcudia, and it has been conjectured that the woman depicted was his young mistress Pepita Tudó. It has also been suggested that the woman was María del Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva y Álvarez de Toledo, 13th Duchess of Alba, with whom Goya is rumored to have been romantically involved and whose portrait he painted twice (in 1795 and 1797). However, many scholars have rejected this possibility, including Australian art critic Robert Hughes in his 2003 biography, Goya. Many agree that Pepita Tudó is a more likely candidate. Others believe the woman depicted is actually a composite of several different models.
In 1815, the Spanish Inquisition - newly reconstituted on the accesion Ferdinand VII of Spain - summoned Goya to reveal who commissioned him to create La maja desnuda. If Goya gave an explanation of the painting's origin to the Inquisition, that account has never surfaced. Two sets of stamps depicting La maja desnuda in commemoration of Goya's work were privately produced in 1930, and later approved by the Spanish Postal Authority. That same year, the United States government barred and returned any mail bearing the stamps. This was the first time that a stamp represented a naked women.
Goya not only upset the ecclesiastical authorities, but also titillated the public and extended the artistic horizon of the day. His work inspired other artists. Jeffrey Meyers, for example, in his book Impressionist Quartet: The Intimate Genius of Manet and Morisot, Degas and Cassatt, opines that Manet's Olympia "boldly alluded to another masterpiece, Goya's Naked Maja."
- Others had certainly hinted at it before, however; Lucas Cranach the Elder's painting The Nymph of the Spring from around 1539 seems to show pubic hair, and his Water Nymph Resting clearly depicts it as well.
- National Gallery of Art. Goya: images of women 2002 p. 228
- "The Clothed and the Naked Maja by Goya"
- Jeffrey Meyers, Impressionist Quartet: The Intimate Genius of Manet and Morisot, Degas and Cassatt. New York: Harcourt, 2005. p. 35.