Goya Nevada
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes | Born March 30, 1746 – Died April 16, 1828

April 6, 2010

Article on the model in Goya's "la maja vestida"

Goya Painting la maja vestida - the Maja Clothed
Goya: la maja vestida

Kay Sluterbeck at the Van Wert, Ohio Times-Bulletin online examines this famous Goya painting:

start quoteLa maja vestida, known in English as The Clothed Maja, portrays the same beautiful, dark-haired woman, clad in a clinging white garment, reclining on a bed of pillows. The two pictures are usually hung next to one another. No one has ever discovered the model's identity, or why the paintings were created.

Both of the paintings are recorded as first belonging to the collection of Prime Minister Manuel de Godoy, Duke of Alcudia. Some art historians conjecture that the woman is his young mistress. However, it has also been suggested that the woman is Maria del Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva y Alvarez de Toledo, the 13th Duchess of Alba. Goya was rumored to have been romantically involved with the duchess and did several known portraits of her. But other scholars feel that Pepita Tudo is a more likely candidate. Still others think that the woman is actually a composite of several different models. None of these theories have been verified.

In 1815, the Spanish Inquisition saw the two paintings hanging side by side and hauled Goya in for questioning. He was told to reveal who commissioned him to paint the "obscene" La maja desnuda (The Naked Maja). No one knows if Goya revealed the client's name, or if Goya was tortured (not uncommon with the Spanish Inquisition). No records with this information have ever surfaced. However, the Inquisition confiscated both works from the Prime Minister, stating they were "obscene". They were returned in 1836end quote

It seems reasonable that the paintings were commissioned by Manuel Godoy. The first appearance of this image (and its sister-painting, La maja desnuda") in historical records is in the 1808 inventory of Manuel Godoy's artworks (which also included the Velasquez 'Toilet of Venus' which was received by Godoy from the Duchess of Alba at her death in 1802.) The 1808 inventory refers to the paintings as 'gypsy's' (gitimas).

Jose Guidol, in his book Goya (1964) suggests the paintings were surely executed before 1800. Many scholars think the paintings were probably used as descrete decorations at Godoy's Madrid palace. Goya had painted a portrait of Godoy in 1801 (which referred to him as the "prince of peace" for his diplomatic work). This was before Godoy's complete fall from grace and eventual exile from Spain for the rest of his life when King Ferdinand (who hated Godoy) succeeded his father Charles IV.

Some historians consider the images to be paintings of Godoy's long-time mistress Pepita Tuda, whom he eventually married in 1832.

An Opinion on la Maja Vestida and la Maja de Nuda

My opinion is that the pair of images are composites and not based upon actual live painting with a model. A stiffness not found in other similar poses in other Goya paintings is present; additionally, the heads appear to have been remodeled after the body forms were painted. This would lend credence to the idea that the paintings were of a specific known person (the Duchess of Alba, or Godoy's mistress Pepita Tuda); but during the turmoil and strife of the Napoleonic invasion, and eventual restoration of the powers of the Inquisition, it would have been prudent to disguise the identity of a well known personage appearing in a (forbidden at that time) nude painting.

A professional artist of Goya's caliber and skills easily painted and drew images without any model present. With familiarity with just about any person, he would have been able to make an identifiable portrait image (and certainly did so in many instances, particularly in his lampooning and satirizing in Los Caprichos) without needing access to the person in question.

However, the level of realism in Goya's "live" portraits supercedes what's here in the Vestida and Desnuda.The embellishing level is the same, but the drawing quality is not. This difference in application of skill in these images is my basis for questioning whether La Maja Desnuda or La Maja Vestida are from actual live modelings session at all. But this is all conjecture.

Goya Portrait

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes

Born March 30, 1746 – Died April 16, 1828. Spanish painter applauded in art history as the transition personality between the Old Masters and modern art. Court painter to the Spanish Crown, Goya pursued personal projects in paint, drawings and etchings in which he chronicled national historical events and carefully articulated a critique of Spanish, and then European ideals, society, morales and religious institutions.
  1. Saturn (Painting)
  2. The Black Paintings
  3. Goya Art Index
  4. Goya Biography
  5. 3rd of May (Painting)
  6. Sleep of Reason (Caprichos #43)

Goya Ephemera

"From this headlong seizure of life we should not expect a calm and refined art, nor a reflective one. Yet Goya was more than a Nietzschean egoist riding roughshod over the world to assert his supermanhood. He was receptive to all shades of feeling, and it was his extreme sensitivity as well as his muscular temerity that actuated his assaults on the outrageous society of Spain." From Thomas Craven's essay on Goya from MEN OF ART (1931).

"...Loneliness has its limits, for Goya was not a prophet but a painter. If he had not been a painter his attitude to life would have found expression only in preaching or suicide." From Andre Malroux's essay in SATURN: AN ESSAY ON GOYA (1957).

"Goya is always a great artist, often a frightening one...light and shade play upon atrocious horrors." From Charles Baudelaire's essay on Goya from CURIOSITES ESTRANGERS (1842).

"[An] extraordinary mingling of hatred and compassion, despair and sardonic humour, realism and fantasy." From the foreword by Aldous Huxley to THE COMPLETE ETCHINGS OF GOYA (1962).

"His analysis in paint, chalk and ink of mass disaster and human frailty pointed to someone obsessed with the chaos of existence..." From the book on Goya by Sarah Symmons (1998).

"I cannot forgive you for admiring Goya...I find nothing in the least pleasing about his paintings or his etchings..." From a letter to (spanish) Duchess Colonna from the French writer Prosper Merimee (1869).

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